In the game of life, menstruation is an inevitable bodily function faced by all women. Yet it is something that so many women around the world know so little about. Menstruation is a vital bodily function and it is imperative that young girls are educated about what is happening to their body, why it happens and what they can do to best protect themselves. Yet for many girls, this information is a luxury that is not accessible to them.
Anyone who has seen the 1976 thriller 'Carrie' will recall the infamous scene where she gets her first period. Having no clue what is happening to her body she begins to panic and screams that she is dying. The girls in her class find this amusing and take joy in throwing various sanitary items at her as they laugh.
It's a horrible scene, and something we could never imagine happening at schools in the 21st Century, but more often than not, the arrival of a girl's first period is a time of great anxiety and confusion.
A recent study in the UK has found that 44% of girls have no idea what is happening when they have their first period. 60% felt scared, 58% felt embarrassed and half did not want to tell anyone that they had started their period. (The Independent)
At a time when the voicing of women's rights through various activist groups is at an all time high, the topic of menstruation continues to disadvantage young girls. For the first time however, it is being brought to light that girls in the United Kingdom are also suffering and missing out on their education as a result of their menstrual cycles.
While this study may be based in the UK, it is indicative of a much greater social issue, the lack of education and understanding around menstruation on a serious global scale.
Most people assume that the negative repercussions and lack of education is only seen in the developing world, but we now understand that developed nations are also at risk of disadvantaging young girls and women.
Shockingly, another UK based study found that girls from low income families were actually skipping school during their menstrual cycle as they do not have access to feminine hygiene products.
Nearly 70% of women over the age of 55 remember menstrual education at school being embarrassing, with this figure worsening for girls currently aged 16-24, the embarrassment figure now sits at 76%.
One of the biggest issues with menstrual education in schools is that the content is usually outdated and unrelatable. Those strange videos of girls getting their first period and the inner workings of the vagina doesn’t really provide any real world knowledge about how to deal with your first period.
The Period Education Campaign ‘Betty for Schools’ based in the UK, is arguing that earlier menstrual education can help to remove some of the shock and stigma associated with first periods. Sex and menstrual education should actually begin before children begin puberty, so they are more than aware of what changes to expect and to feel comfortable knowing that they are not alone and that puberty is normal. Children should be taught not only what will happen to them in the next year or so, but how their bodies will change later on as well.
One of the biggest mistakes has been the exclusion of boys in menstrual education, with girls being taken into a different room to discuss this in private. If boys don’t have a concept of what menstruation is then it will also be a taboo and gross topic of conversation and once this is entrenched in their minds early on it is very difficult to get them to think differently later in life. Not only this, but insufficient sex education is partly responsible for boys thinking that certain sexual behaviours are acceptable, leading to much wider problems of consent later in life which we hear about far too often in the media.
Schools need to make a conscientious effort to ensure girls feel comfortable talking about their periods, and seeking out help if necessary. This means an open conversation about bodily changes in classes, allowing girls to use the bathroom whenever they need and always having the sanitary bins accessible in all toilets.
Modibodi is a much loved option by both mothers and daughters, as it helps to reduce the associated anxiety of an unexpected first period or having it during schooltime. Modibodi look and feel just like normal underwear, so it is a very discreet and comfortable option but will ensure girls are protected all day and feeling confident and worry free!
Modibodi girls range can be shopped here
Whether it is in regard to menstruation, sex or puberty education, it is becoming overwhelmingly apparent that something is really lacking in these areas and it is having wider negative implications for various generations.
Understanding that a lack of menstrual education is not exclusive to the developing world is bringing more attention to this as a global human rights issue and Modibodi will continue to draw attention to this issue, and work with companies who aim to provide sustainable feminine hygiene products to disadvantaged women.