That’s what we thought. Just how bad can it be?
Women need access to sustainable and culturally appropriate menstrual products and health education, in order to be healthy and thrive.
In Bangladesh, the majority of women are not even aware of menstruation before they experience it. Up to 95% of Bangladeshi women aren’t using sanitary products because they either can’t afford them or they are inaccessible (1).
Instead, many women use rags or torn sari known as ‘nekra’.
IMPACT ON HEALTH
One study reports that, due to social stigmas, women resort to drying rags in secret, often in damp, mouldy and unhygienic places (2). Unclean rags have contributed to the high rates of vaginal and urinary infections reported across Bangladesh. Serious infections are often left untreated, especially in the urban slums and in rural Bangladesh.
One study reported that 73% of Bangladeshi factory workers missed six days of work (resulting in unpaid days) on average per month due to infections caused by unhygienic menstrual rags (3).
Both cultural restrictions and gender roles contribute to the taboo topic that is menstrual health. These factors, alongside a lack of education and facilities, misconceptions, and negative attitudes, have led to negative self-image and an ‘impure’, shameful stigma that is periods.
IMPACT ON ENVIRONMENT
Bangladesh is also one of the poorest and most people-dense nations. On an environmental level, Bangladesh has become a dumping ground for many countries. Lack of awareness and lack of urban planning have resulted in an overburdened waste management system. Under half of the rubbish produced in the supercity of Dhaka gets collected regularly (5). Streets are overflowing with rubbish and toxic substances, drains are clogged with waste. With over 40 million women of reproductive age in Bangladesh, the thought of continuing to use disposable non-degrading sanitary products poses an ecological nightmare.
Globally, women have been taught to hide their periods. This ‘taboo’ is one of the main physical attributes of what it is to be a healthy, thriving woman. We want to be part of the conversation in what it means to be both loving and inclusive of women’s bodies. We want to celebrate the fact that when a woman is healthy and well, she has her period. That something as beautiful as new life, starts with being able to have a period.
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1. Ahmed, R., and K. Yasmin. Menstrual hygiene: breaking the silence. Beyond construction: Use by all. A collection of case studies from sanitation and hygiene promotion practitioners in South Asia. London: WaterAid, 2008, 283-287.
2. Ahmed, R., and K. Yasmin. Menstrual hygiene: breaking the silence. Beyond construction: Use by all. A collection of case studies from sanitation and hygiene promotion practitioners in South Asia. London: WaterAid, 2008, 283-287.
3. George, Rose. Celebrating Womanhood: How better menstrual hygiene management is the path to better health, dignity and business. Geneva: Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council, 2013, 10.
4. Newbury, Emma. Promoting Menstrual Hygiene Management in Bangladesh. Needs Assessment, Newstone Global Consulting, 5-6.
5. Afroz, R., K. Hanaki, and R. Tudin. Factors affecting waste generation: a study in a waste management program in Dhaka City, Bangladesh. Springer Science+Business Media B.V, 2010.