On Oct. 19, the first national Period Day and Rally were launched by PERIOD, a nonprofit focused on combating period poverty and stigma.
PERIOD was founded by two 16-year-old high school students, Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand.
This rally was about elevating the issue of period poverty. Period poverty is when someone has a lack of access to essential menstrual hygienic products, such as pads, tampons and diva cups. This is due to financial constraints, inaccessibility and lack of information on menstruation.
It also demands a real change to make period products more accessible for all. This ends the #TamponTax, according to PERIOD.
Period Shaming, in the simplest way to describe it, is when the right to human dignity is stripped away from someone who menstruates and is replaced with shame and guilt.
“Menstrual Rights are Human Rights” (PERIOD org.)
Menstruation, period, cycle or time of the month, whichever is used all mean the same thing. Each of them is just another term or word to describe the natural process and bodily function that both girls and women experience when they are at reproductive age.
Menstruation is when the lining of the uterus sheds blood along with tissue and nutrients through the vagina. This cycle begins when a girl reaches puberty. It continues until she reaches the end of her fertility (also known as menopause, at which time menstrual cycles end).
Yet, despite menstruation being a natural process that occurs the help that is given to those going through it, the reactions to it and the societal views on it can be less than ideal.
According to a recent study, a startling one-in-five teens have struggled to afford period products or have not been able to purchase them at all. Along with that, one-in-four teens have missed class due to the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products.
Menstruation is not a luxury that only a select amount can get; periods are something all girls and women experience. The products that are made to help and aid them during their cycle should not be considered a luxury, but rather a necessity.
Period poverty is a thing in America too. According to the US Census Bureau, 39.7 million people live below the poverty line in the U.S., yet menstrual products are not covered by food stamps. Even with statistics such as this, there is very little being done to help aid this epidemic that is happening both within the U.S. and globally.
Around the world and throughout history, misconceptions about menstruation have led to women’s and girls’ exclusion from all kinds of roles and settings – everything from leadership positions to space travel.
Such misconceptions include but are not limited to the following: they are dirty or unclean, it’s a sign that a girl is ready for marriage, it limit’s their physical capabilities and it’s not meant to be openly spoken about.
Besides just these misconceptions there are offensive alternative names for menstruation such as the red badge of courage, moon time, mother nature’s gift and lady business.
All this has much more than just physical effects on girls and women it has both mental effects as well on them. Period shame has negative mental effects as well. It disempowers women, causing them to feel embarrassed about a normal biological process.
Okamoto has a way to start tackling the stigma and misconceptions surrounding periods.
“There’s a general lack of education around menstrual hygiene,” Okamoto said. “I’m trying to combat the stigma by starting conversations and taking action to make the topic more accessible.”
Period poverty and the stigma are interconnected and both allow the other to persist, but like anything, something has to give for change to begin.
A way to start change is by educating both menstruators and non-menstruator’s on periods, period shaming and period poverty. Spreading awareness for this global epidemic by spreading the word and educating along the way.
By starting a conversation it can normalize the way periods are thought of, talked about and treated.