Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated worldwide on May 28. Increasing awareness about period dignity is important because millions of women and young girls are missing out on opportunities due to their period. 1
The theme of Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023 is “making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030.” 2
Providing access to period products, safe facilities in which to use them, and breaking stigmas associated with menstrual hygiene are central to helping end period poverty.
Let’s talk about menstrual hygiene
In a previous blog, we looked at why we should make menstrual hygiene a normal fact of life.
Empowering and educating people about period dignity is also important. The only way to beat the stigma around menstrual hygiene is by opening up and talking about it.
This blog post looks at the common period challenges faced by individuals, and features some real life stories.
The main issues experienced by individuals when it comes to menstrual hygiene are:
1. Limited access to period products
Many of us can relate to being completely unprepared when it comes to starting our cycle without any period supplies. I, for one, have been caught unexpectedly too many times, making me feel anxious about the entire situation. Here is my story:
“I was in school when my period started, and I was completely unprepared! My school uniform was soaked through, and I had to use my jersey to cover myself. Thankfully, we had a uniform bank and period supplies at reception, which I was very grateful for.”
The lack of period products in washrooms, particularly in toilet cubicles, contributes to this challenge. Providing free period products in the main washroom area and, even better, in toilet cubicles can really help in a time of need. This is especially essential for those who cannot afford sanitary products.
2. Reliance on others or emergency measures:
In situations where individuals find themselves without period products, they often ask their friends or colleagues for help. Others rush to shops or vending machines to make emergency purchases. Some may even have to use toilet paper as a temporary solution, which can be inconvenient and uncomfortable.
“I remember my first ever period; I was nine, so younger than most, and it was before we had learned about it in school. I was completely caught off guard. Aside from feeling freaked out, (it was only later that I learned it was a natural process), I found myself making a DIY solution out of toilet roll. In my school only two out of five cubicles had sanitary bins in them, and there wasn’t a paid vending machine or access to free menstrual products.
Today, with the period dignity movement, it’s always a huge relief when I walk into a washroom and see there’s a supply of free period products. It may sound daft, but I will visit there again because if I know if I’m caught off guard, they will have me covered, and it doesn’t matter if I don’t have change on me for a paid-vend.” – A.M.
“My 14-year-old daughter was caught short at school one day and was out on the playing fields with a group of friends, boys and girls. She was totally unaware that her period had arrived a few days early.
As she got up, a boy she knows noticed she had blood on her skirt and said to her, “Here, take my jumper and tie it around you to keep warm.” She was confused and said “But I’m not cold; I’m fine!”. He then said, “Well, I think the back of your skirt is a bit damp, so you may get cold, so perhaps you want to tie this around your waist.” She then realised what he was trying to tell her.
What a kind boy to ensure she was not left walking around school not knowing what had happened.” – K.K.
These experiences highlight the need for readily available period products in public washrooms to help alleviate reliance on others or having to take emergency measures.
3. Lack of privacy and discretion:
Accessing period products discreetly is essential for individuals’ comfort and washroom dignity. Unfortunately, the free provision of period products in toilet cubicles is not something we commonly encounter. 3
By making menstrual products available within toilet cubicles, individuals can manage their periods with greater ease and confidence. To demonstrate their commitment to washroom dignity, our partner, Saracens installed In Cubicle Period Dignity Dispensers in their hospitality and guest washrooms at StoneX Stadium.
4. Affordability and financial constraints:
Many people struggle to afford menstrual products, and the cost of living crisis has made the issue increasingly difficult. This challenge surrounding period poverty prevents some from giving priority to their menstrual hygiene needs. 4
According to our partner, Freedom4Girls, the relationship between the cost of living crisis and period poverty is undeniable, and its effects are already shaping the lives of millions.
The lack of access to tampons, pads, and other period products is highlighting the need to provide free and affordable period products in public washrooms. 5 By doing so, this will make sure that people have the supplies they need, regardless of their financial situation.
5. Reducing stigma and period dignity education
Education is critical to reducing the stigma and misinformation associated with menstruation.
By openly discussing the topic of menstrual hygiene and providing accurate information, we can help break down the stigma surrounding menstrual hygiene. Let’s normalise the discussion surrounding periods, because it is a normal process of life and we should all be empowered to manage our own menstrual health.
“Travelling on a train back from a work trip, I was caught out with lots of stuff, but not the right stuff! In my panic to use toilet roll/fashion something, I left to wash my hands and found a free period product dispenser in the main washroom of the train station. It didn’t have the product I preferred, but I was extremely grateful for the help in what felt like an extremely undignified situation. I even texted my friends that lived in the city to give thanks that their local train station had me covered and let them know of its existence in case they were ever caught short!” – D.E.
Everyone deserves a dignified washroom experience
At Initial Washroom Hygiene, we believe in providing period dignity for all. We are committed to providing sanitary product options that help ensure a dignified washroom experience for all washroom users, regardless of their age, gender or need.
“I took a call from my youngest daughter earlier this year, while I was driving to a meeting at Compass House. She was in the washroom at school and in tears, having started her first ever period and found that she had leaked through her tights and school skirt. There were no supplies in the school washroom, she had typically taken her period emergency pack out of her school bag that day to make space for her Food & Nutrition ingredients.
“A school friend had given her a pad to use, but as her pants and tights were wet it would not stick, and she was crying on the phone, just wanting to come home. There was no dignity to be had that day for my daughter, and I had to get a family member to drive to the school and collect her.” – K.K.