As part of the Spring Into Action campaign running from April 16 – May 1, we will be posting daily about topics related to extreme poverty and how anyone and everyone can join the movement to end it.
I was surprised by my period the other day. I know, TMI. But the fact of the matter is, I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. I literally have an app on my phone that tracks my period. It counts down the days until my next start date, and even tells me when I am ovulating.
By now you are probably wondering why you are reading this slightly uncomfortable article on menstruation. All I can say is I have blood on the brain – and you should, too.
I think back to fifth grade when I had to sit through the maturation program in school. I was mortified as we talked about changing bodies and starting periods, all while my mom sat next to me completely unphased and uninterested.
But as I grumbled to myself about the inconvenience of periods this morning, I had a thought. There are women in this world who have no idea why they bleed every month. Can you imagine not knowing why you are suddenly bleeding once a month? In third world countries, there are women who genuinely believe they are losing one of their vital organs during their period.
I consider the horrible cramps and aches I get once a month like clockwork, and thank the sweet heavens for Midol and Ibuprofen. Another thought: Some women and girls don’t have those basic medications. They simply suffer through, not understanding why they are in pain.
I remember 7th grade health class, where we were learned the science behind conception, once again an embarrassed preteen because the words “egg” and “sperm” were being thrown around like candy at a parade. But the fact of the matter is: I understand the science behind conception. I live in a country where I have access to contraception – and if I don’t desire to take it, at least I know when I am fertile each month. I can’t fathom not having some semblance of control over when I get pregnant. And yet there are women in the world who do not have any control.
And hospitals. If I were pregnant and a minor complication arose, it would barely phase me. One quick trip to the OB/GYN or the hospital and solutions would be discussed. In rural villages, something like hemorrhaging is life-threatening. Hospitals and hygiene are often unheard of. In rural areas, infants dying is the norm, not the exception.
As I drive into work, I consider the education that got me here. The fact that when I am bleeding each month, I can still lead a normal life thanks to the genius creators of tampons and pads. To think, I can go to the store and spend less than $10 and have all the tools I need to make it through a week of nasty bleeding. There are women and girls in the world who don’t even have the tools needed to manage their bleeding. Who skip school because bleeding is unmanageable and unacceptable. Who use cornhusks and sticks and dirty cloth to try and contain the bleeding. Who are locked into sheds or banned from the kitchen because blood is considered unholy. Every. Single. Month.
And to think, I can take a hot shower at any moment to clean myself up and ensure I don’t get an infection. I cannot imagine having to simply live with myself, unclean and uncomfortable, indefinitely. I cannot imagine consistently getting a UTI or some other horrible infection simply because I do not have the resources to get clean. And more importantly, I cannot imagine getting an infection without access to antibiotics to combat it -- or even cranberry juice.
And yet, while I cannot fully comprehend any of it, I actually can imagine it -- because I have met women and girls who live like this.
So yes, this is an uncomfortable topic. But not nearly as uncomfortable as the thought that there are women and girls who don’t understand their cycle, who don’t have the tools to manage it, and who are disadvantaged in school every single month simply because they have a uterus.
That is unacceptable. And it’s about bloody time we do something about it.
Think about it: On average, women menstruate for 3,000 days of their life.
Today, donate to help us raise $3,000 in 24 hours so we can bring training and reusable feminine hygiene kits to women and girls globally. And the first 5 people to donate $25 or more will receive a $10 gift card to DownEast!