We all have a role in breaking the cycle of silence. Today, May 28th, marks International Menstrual Hygiene Day; a day devoted to breaking the silence, amplifying awareness, highlighting the urgency to address menstrual injustices, and reshaping negative societal norms surrounding menstruation across the globe.
Today, May 28th, marks International Menstrual Hygiene Day; a day devoted to breaking the silence, amplifying awareness, highlighting the urgency to address menstrual injustices, and reshaping negative societal norms surrounding menstruation across the globe. This day serves as a powerful clarion call for each one of us—regardless of age, gender, or menstrual status—to join forces and renew our commitment to achieving menstrual justice, a cause that has been side-lined for too long. It's high time we stride forward towards period equity—now!
Period poverty and stigma—an umbrella term describing the inability to afford and access menstrual products and WASH facilities with dignity, and the associated societal shame—are pervasive issues stretching far beyond low-income countries. Each of these issues is a thread in a complex tapestry of suffering and silence that spans diverse geographies and societies.
Think of this—according to a New York Post survey, more than half of women in the US have blushed with embarrassment simply for being on their period, while 42% have been shamed for this natural biological process. Across the Atlantic, Plan International's research uncovers another startling statistic: nearly half of UK girls have missed an entire school day due to their period. These aren't just numbers; they're narratives of interrupted lives and stifled potentials.
The advent of COVID-19 in recent years has amplified these injustices, making it more of a pressing issue than ever. Our own studies at 'With Red' has uncovered that an alarming 9% of Taiwanese girls, women and people who menstruate grapple with period poverty, proving that this crisis doesn't discriminate—it reaches every corner of our global community.
Menstrual equity is a fundamental human right intrinsically tied to human dignity. When individuals cannot access adequate menstrual products, safe WASH facilities or manage their menstruation effectively, their ability to handle menstruation with dignity is compromised.
As the World Economic Forum insightfully pointed out, ‘It will take more than free pads to end period poverty.’ Access to menstrual products is a key piece of the puzzle, but we must also consider the importance of menstrual education, the provision of safe and clean facilities, and the courageous fight to dismantle the stigmas entrenched in our societies. This isn't just a call to action—it's a global outcry for change.
Turning the tide on such complex challenges isn't easy, but I've been diving headfirst into these turbulent waters since a decade ago, determined to make a difference. In my own work, I founded an NGO ‘With Red’ with the explicit goal of promoting menstrual equity and empowering individuals who menstruate in Taiwan and beyond.
Through a series of collaborations with various sectors, we've managed to secure $1.4 million in donations, distribute 350,000 menstrual products, and influence over 20 public policy changes related to menstrual equity. More than just providing material support, we're also reshaping societal perspectives and conversations around menstruation. We've pioneered the first inclusive, age-specific period education program, which is currently transforming lives across 18 cities in 110 schools and organisations. We've even opened the doors to the first Asian university-level menstruation course at National Taiwan University, a ground-breaking stride towards dismantling the period taboo at an institutional level.
Our ambitious efforts have also given birth to Period Museum, a unique landmark that stands as the world's only bricks-and-mortar museum dedicated to menstruation. This museum is more than a place—it's a symbol. It's an educational beacon that also serves as a rallying point for promoting period positivity and challenging period stigma. As we continue to spark change, we're proud to say that the path we're carving is leaving an indelible footprint on the sands of time.
The journey towards menstrual equity may seem daunting. It's a road paved with challenges and turns. But remember, each one of us holds the power to bring about change, to accelerate the journey, and to shorten the distance to the destination. Here's how you can join the battle:
Yes, the journey to menstrual equity may be long, but remember this - it's not the distance that matters, it's the strides we take together. I firmly believe that menstruation should never obstruct anyone's choices, aspirations, or well-being.
You have the power to shape this narrative. Your voice can echo change. Your actions can create waves. And your commitment can turn the tide in favour of this cause. Every step you take, every conversation you initiate, and every policy you push for brings us closer to a world where menstrual justice is a given, not a privilege.
My team and I will continue to march towards menstrual equity until the day our cause is no longer a necessity but a celebrated victory. So, on this International Menstrual Hygiene Day, let’s unite and pledge to take action until menstrual equity becomes an undeniable reality for all.