Pop Quiz: What paper product plays a serious role in helping young women stay healthy, get an education, and become economically independent?
If you guessed period pads, you're 100% correct.
It might sound a little odd, but that’s part of why Menstrual Hygiene Day is so important. In America, talking about periods can make people feel squeamish and uncomfortable, but it’s even worse in many places of the world, where stigma has menstruating girls viewed in all sorts of unfavorable ways.
In some places this stigma, coupled with a lack of pads and other sanitary devices, causes girls to stay home from school, which in turn leads to many of them dropping out, which makes it even harder for them to gain employment, and ultimately become self-sufficient.
So for the second annual Menstrual Hygiene Day, Advocates for Youth is getting in on the period-talking action and hosting an event in Washinton, D.C., where they’ll be featuring THINX, an underwear company that supplies menstruation kits to young women in Uganda.
“[Menstrual Hygiene Day] is really aimed at de-stigmatizing periods and raising awareness around the issues women and girls face related to menstrual hygiene management,” M.A. Keifer, International Policy Analyst for Advocates for Youth, told MTV News. Events are happening all over the globe in honor of the new holiday, and Keifer said Advocates for Youth’s event will be about telling personal stories and talking about why menstruation matters.
Jasmin Jenkins, Communications Manager of THINX, told MTV News about THINX’s woman-to-woman strategy. “For every pair of THINX purchased, we subsidize the cost of a menstruation kit through our partner, AFRIpads, in Uganda. We chose Uganda because currently 85% of girls drop out of school due to complications with their periods.”
While THINX is helping women in Uganda, Jenkins stressed that this is an issue taking place all over the world. “THINX is really about empowering women globally as much as empowering the Ugandan women we’re currently partnered with.”
And Keifer says now is a really important time to be talking about menstrual hygiene management as a human right, because nations around the world will soon be voting on the Sustainable Development Goals for the next fifteen years.
“One of the things Advocates for Youth is pushing for, along with a number of other organizations, is making sure that adolescent girls and young women — and young people more broadly — are really adequately represented and addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said. “This is the largest generation of young people ever on this planet. We have 1.8 billion young people, but they have been largely left out of the development agenda.”
And it's about time people got over being grossed out by periods. When women are no longer stigmatized for their bodies, have the products they need, and the ability to attend school and work while on their periods, we will be that much closer to achieving gender equality.
“We know that 100 million girls every year miss school one week out of the month because it’s their period,” Keifer said. “That’s girls who are vulnerable to violence and girls who are unable to finish schooling and get behind their male counterparts. We know that girls and young women are change-makers, and making sure that they have all the tools they need to be successful is going to set us up for being able to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals.”