Blood – we all have it, and we all lose some of it from time to time. For many of us, this happens for a few days roughly every month, as normal as any other part of our lifecycle. Yet, stigma still surrounds women’s periods, leaving the topic as near taboo in so many societies across Europe and globally. This World Menstrual Hygiene Day, the EWL wants to confront the stigma and the taboo of periods and challenge their effects. No matter who or where you are, if you have a period, you should be able to speak out and experience the support and equality, as you need it!
Every woman that has had a period knows that cramps, PMS, the need for period products, etc. affect their day to some degree, and yet they are not able to talk about it freely. We make bonds in bathrooms sharing tampons, but outside these spaces, we keep quiet about the discomforts and negative impacts on our days. Periods are the object of ridicule in the media, but we rarely see an honest reminder of how normal a part of our days and lives it is.
The impact of this silence and shaming is not limited to the individual; it reaches much wider political and systemic issues.
One such issue is taxation and period poverty. Single-use period products can be a highly expensive cost, but more environmentally and financially sustainable longer-lasting products like the cup or period pants are out of reach for those in poverty. Why the high costs? Despite their being a necessity product for millions of women across Europe, period products remain labelled a “luxury product” for tax purposes across many EU countries, meaning we are paying high rates of tax for these basic products. This must be reformed.
Another significant impact of period stigma is the risk to girls’ education and women’s engagement in the workplace. Across the world, millions of girls miss school while on their period. Similarly, many women also miss time from work. This can be due to the lack of access to period products, cramps and period-related illnesses, or simply due to the depth of the taboo held over menstruation. It is only through open conversation, adequate health support and cost reduction on period products that we will see real change in this regard. We also support the introduction of period policies, as part of women’s life-cycle policies (to also cover, for example, menopause), to ensure schools and workplaces recognise and support women experiencing negative impacts of regular life situations.
Finally, we note that women’s health in regards to our reproductive systems is grossly under-researched. Countless women have significant challenges with being correctly diagnosed with menstrual-linked illnesses such as endometriosis. This is another result of the period stigma in our society and has real risks on women’s health, wellbeing and their very lives.
Blood is normal. Periods are normal. We will only resolve many of the above issues – period poverty, high taxation, school absences, health concerns and stigma – if we can normalise conversations about periods and their impacts on our lives. Period.