Period Shame: How It Affects Girls’ Education in Early and Middle School

Period Shame: How It Affects Girls’ Education in Early and Middle School

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Period Shame

Education is a human right and is crucial for better livelihood, economic mobility, and the ability to thrive. However, many girls face barriers to staying in school due to menstrual shame. There are misconceptions, shame, and stigma surrounding periods in Indian society. Such stigma makes girls vulnerable to dropping out of school, gender discrimination, exclusion, and hygiene issues. Generally, girls who drop out of school are pushed into household chores and child marriage, leading to the deprivation of their potential. Around the world, 500 million women and girls don’t have the facilities and resources to manage their periods safely, hygienically, and free from embarrassment. This is majorly impacting girls’ education, resulting in low attendance and dropouts, as well as gender discrimination in schools.

Lack of awareness

A very small number of parents in India prepare their daughters for periods, and 71% of adolescent girls are unaware of their periods until they get them. This leads to anxiety and fear among girls, and they may become victims of teasing and bullying by their peers, which causes them to miss school.

Poor access to sanitary napkins

Sanitary pads are still a luxury for many families in India, and they cannot afford them. Only 36% of women in India use sanitary pads during their periods, and the rest of the women use other items such as cotton cloth and socks. This increases the chances of leakage, which leads to increased absenteeism. Awareness should be spread about other alternatives to pads, such as tampons and menstrual cups. Menstrual cups are cheaper, reusable, and environmentally friendly alternatives.

Poor infrastructure and facilities

Inadequate infrastructure poses a challenge for girls to attend school during their menstrual cycle. Factors such as non-functional bathrooms, poorly equipped and non-separate toilets, malfunctioning knobs, and inadequate disposal facilities for sanitary pads are major reasons behind girls dropping out of school. Unhygienic washrooms also increase the risk of urinary and other infections. In India, 23% of girls drop out of school due to menstrual poverty and stigma.

Unequal opportunities

Discrimination against menstruating girls is prevalent because periods are perceived as taboo and impure. During menstruation, girls are restricted from several activities such as touching food, visiting temples, and sometimes even staying away from home. Due to misconceptions and painful experiences, girls in school sometimes miss important opportunities regarding academics and extracurricular activities.

Also Read: 7 barriers and enablers for accessing quality education for girls in rural areas

Periods Shaming

Peers in school tease or bully girls for their period-related issues, which significantly contributes to dropout rates. Period shaming can take various forms, such as direct teasing, denying bathroom requests during class, and taboos and misconceptions, making girls feel impure and discriminated against. This promotes fear and disgust among girls regarding their periods. Due to teasing and embarrassment, many girls miss school during their periods, and some even permanently drop out.

Overall school performance

Periods shame, embarrassment, and anxiety contribute to low academic performance in school. Missing classes results in low academic performance, and it also limits girls’ potential to participate in other activities or explore their passions. Period anxiety or teasing can lower girls’ confidence, which may impact their future career growth.

How can we break the taboo around menstruation?

Awareness: Awareness about periods should be spread throughout all sectors of society. Valid sources should be utilized to obtain and disseminate knowledge. Social media is an excellent platform for spreading awareness, as it is widely used in many parts of India and plays an important role in influencing young people.

Open discussion: Just spreading awareness will not be enough unless it is openly discussed and accepted in communities. Many workshops and sessions should be conducted at the grassroots level to provide opportunities for girls from all corners of the country to have discussions about their periods.

Challenge stereotypes:  There are many stereotypes regarding periods that make it taboo in society. The younger generation should challenge and take action to break these stereotypes, and men have an equal responsibility to step forward and break the taboos.

Improve Accessibilities: Schools need to take the initiative to provide girls with access to essential period products, improving their accessibility.

Periods-friendly policies: Periods-friendly policies should be introduced at the state and central levels, which should then be strictly followed and implemented. This will result in reduced periods of shame and school dropouts, as well as an increase in girls’ confidence and the empowerment of women in various fields.

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