Over the last week, your social feed might’ve been a little bit more period positive than you’re used to. That’s because May 28 was Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the challenges people face because of their periods and how we might address those challenges.
Now hold up. Some of you might be thinking, “OK, OK, so cramps are evil and sometimes my period seriously takes me out for an entire day, but what’s this whole ‘menstrual hygiene’ thing? Are you implying my period makes me dirty? Rude.”
Not at all. Your period is a natural bodily function. But across the globe – and even in your own neighborhood – there are people experiencing homelessness and poverty who:
- don’t have access to period products
- don’t have clean, private places to change their period products
- don’t have clean, private places to throw away their period products
- don’t have access to pain relief while they are on their periods
So what are they using for period products? Sadly, anything they can find, including rags, newspapers, bunched up toilet paper and any other materials they can find to create makeshift pads and tampons. This is incredibly unhygienic, and it’s causing people to get infections, miss school, miss work, ruin what few clothes they might have, and much more.
We shouldn’t let this happen if we’re able to help. When periods are a fact of life for people with uteruses, people shouldn’t be forced to create unclean, makeshift period products.
And that’s the whole point of Menstrual Hygiene Day. Even though periods are a natural bodily function, they’re still (oddly) a taboo subject, so we still need a big awareness campaign to educate people about the problem.
Menstrual Hygiene Affects Us All
So Menstrual Hygiene Day is a big step for period positivity, but the campaign’s got a long way to go as far as inclusivity goes. The Menstrual Hygiene Day campaign materials are designed with the gender binary in mind. They’re very pink, feature only graphics of girls, and use gendered language. Basically, they think only girls get periods.
Not only are women not the only people who get periods, but they’re also not the only people who experience poverty and homelessness. In both Canada and the United States, transgender communities face a higher level of poverty and homelessness than cisgender communities. And many trans people report facing discrimination at shelters because they are transgender.
Imagine the challenges the trans communities face when it comes to menstrual hygiene. I mean, how are you supposed to get period products when people don’t even believe you get a period?
Let’s say it together: menstrual hygiene affects us all.
Menstrual Hygiene is a Year-Round Issue
Menstrual Hygiene Day may only be one day a year, but that doesn’t mean our efforts to help those in need should only happen on May 28.
Globally, Menstrual Hygiene Day events will continue through June, with:
- a Personal Hygiene Workshop in Africa on June 1
- a workshop on medicinal plants in South America on June 1
- a life-skills training session and distribution of menstrual products in Africa on June 2, and
- Red Wave Talks in London on June 7
More locally – and on the opposite coast from where Lunapads is located – The Period Purse, a grassroots organization that provides purses filled with pads, tampons and wellness items directly to the homeless, abused and impoverished across Canada, is hosting several events in the Toronto area to support menstrual hygiene awareness:
- Purse-packing parties on Saturday, June 2 and 9, on the east and west ends of the city
- Mini fund-raising drive on Friday, June 8, at Tokki, 3124, Dundas St., W. in Toronto. They’ll be collecting tampons, large purses and backpacks.
And, remember, Lunapads created the program One4Her in partnership with AFRIpads. A portion of Lunapads’ gross annual sales plus customer donations goes toward projects that support menstrual and reproductive health in Uganda. That means you’re making a difference just by shopping Lunapads. How cool is that?
How are you getting involved in menstrual hygiene awareness? We’d love to hear about how you’re making a difference in your community. Hit us up on Facebook or on Twitter @lunapads and let us know!
Cover image courtesy of The Homeless Period.
Mika Doyle is a writer and poet whose work has appeared in Bitch Media, Role/Reboot, and Everyday Feminism (under a pseudonym). Follow her on Twitter at @mikadoyle and visit her website at mikadoyle.com.