On average women spend 2,100 days on their period during their lifetime. So let’s talk about them.
A year ago I wrote a blog about periods; 'The worst period of her life: putting myself in her shoes'. Thousands of people have read the blog and continue to do so regularly, which makes me confident it’s something people are ready to talk about at last. A year on, and after hearing stories like Suljhana's from Nepal, I thought it was time to readdress the topic – seeing as it's Menstrual Hygiene Day.
Why do sanitary pads matter in a crisis?
Lots of people commented on the blog, some questioning whether women and girls’ lack of sanitary products was one of the most important things to deal with in a refugee camp or crisis, when people have lost their homes, their belongings and sometimes their friends and family.
So I say it again, periods are important: they affect half of the people in the world and don’t stop when your own world has been turned upside down - when you have been forced to flee your home, because of war or disaster. True, not having sanitary items may not kill you, but poor sanitation can cause extremely painful infections on top of the huge discomfort, shame and embarrassment of blood stains.
Four days, one sanitary towel
It's hard to imagine the situation women are facing in Nepal right now, in a country devastated by earthquakes. Some women are wearing the same sanitary towel for four days at a time. Four days. One sanitary towel.
That's not the end of it by any means. Privacy is the next huge problem. Suljhana - one of thousands of women coping with being homeless and having their period in Nepal right now - told us how she feels about it.
“It is particularly awkward during menstruation periods to share tents with men. During the first two days of my period I bleed heavy and I have been so uncomfortable having to share the same roof with so many people that I could not fall asleep for those two days.
I've also read stories from girls who have had no access to sanitary products, who only have cloths to wash with and they have to do this in open spaces where people have also gone to defecate.
Will you help women keep their dignity?
ActionAid provides sanitary kits to women and girls in emergencies because this is what women tell us they need. They tell us they want to maintain their dignity, their sense of normality whatever way they can. Sanitary kits can offer this.
These kits include sanitary pads, spare knickers, soap, washing powder and a torch - the essentials women need to feel safe, clean and comfortable.
Photos: Manish Malla/ActionAid