‘The blob’, ‘Aunty Flow’, "Shark Week" - there are nearly 5000 euphemisms for periods. We want to end the secrecy around menstruation so girls and women can go to school and work without stigma or shame.
Personally, I’ve never been one to shy away from writing or talking about periods and frankly why would I? It’s a massively important issue, not just for me personally as a woman but for my friends, colleagues, family, and the women who ActionAid work with across the world.
5,000 words for periods
This week we learned there are 5,000 words across the globe to describe periods - from the more poetic 'strawberry week' in Germany to the bizarre 'Granny's stuck in traffic' in South Africa, and 'Communists are in the funhouse' in Denmark! A new survey of over 90,000 people across 190 countries found that euphemisms for periods were spoken in 10 different languages.
Removing the stigma around periods at work
The final big news for women and periods this week came when a Bristol-based business announced they would be creating a ‘period policy’ to allow women to take time off without being stigmatised, as they often are for illnesses around their periods. Women who have horrific pain, sleepless nights and excess bleeding can often be treated like they are not facing a real issue that affects both their work and their wellbeing. This simply isn’t the case, and so I say this is a positive step in the right direction.
Millions of girls miss school because of their periods
For women and girls across the globe, having their period can mean losing out on an education, and losing out on earning money, because of the embarrassment of having their period without sanitary products and safe toilets. A study in Ethiopia found that 50% of girls miss up to four days of school per month due to menstruation.
Last year, I visited a school in Ethiopia which had a single toilet, which was open for everyone to see. Thanks to ActionAid and the partners we work with in the community, a new school is being built which will include separate male and female toilets.
ActionAid also provides sanitary kits to women and girls in emergencies, because this is what women tell us they need. We're currently giving these kits to refugee women on Lesvos. It might seem like a small thing, but it is essential for women who have had to leave everything behind.
I’m glad everyone's talking about periods this week. Let's keep this conversation going!
Photo credits: Karin Schermbrucker/ActionAid, Greg Funnell/ActionAid