Many people around the world miss out on school or work, and opt out of activities they enjoy, like sports or eating certain foods, every month — just because of their period. The reasons are endless — maybe they’ve been told they’re dirty because they have periods, they don’t have pads or tampons, or they don’t have access to clean water and toilets.
To help break the silence around periods that stops people from getting they need information about the process, period product brand Always is partnering with the nonprofit organization WASH United in honor of Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28. Together, they are stressing the important role that period education for everyone plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential.
Research indicates that over half of girls experience a sharp drop in confidence at puberty, and many of them never get it back. The first period often marks the lowest level of confidence during their teenage years if they lack the necessary information to process the experience and manage their periods with dignity and pride.
Harmful taboos, traditions, and myths stigmatize periods, promote shame, and stop people who have periods from participating in society. Period education allows people to understand the natural process and fights negative perceptions. When people who have periods receive resources and information to manage their periods safely, they can thrive.
“Unfortunately, MHM (menstrual health management) education remains under-prioritized and underfunded at all levels," said Thorsten Kiefer, founder & CEO of WASH United. "WASH United is all about working in partnership and we are convinced that together with Always, P&G, and Global Citizen, we can catalyze advocacy and action on the issue."
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To prioritize period education, Always started the global Puberty and Confidence Education Program 35 years ago. In the 2019 school year, the program will reach more than 18 million girls and boys, and their communities, in more than 70 countries. The program has been updated in 2019 in response to the United Nation’s 2018 guidelines for puberty and education, which also stresses the need to educate boys and girls. When boys also understand periods, it reduces stigma and creates accepting environments for people who menstruate.
Always Keeping Girls in School Program Facilitator in Kenya is teaching a room full of girls and boys about puberty and periods.
The Always education program not only ensures that students are taught the biological facts, but also that they learn how to deal with the emotional changes they go through. The program supports them as they work to build their confidence, influence, and voice. Young girls who participated in the Always education program have reported that they felt better about themselves after. In sub-Saharan Africa, 92% of girls who participated in the program agreed that their self-confidence increased because of what they learned about their bodies and how to manage their periods. After completing the program, 81% agreed they were able to talk openly about puberty with teachers.
“Education is critical. For girls to be able to manage their menstruation safely, hygienically, and without shame, they need quality educational interventions that not only provide basic information, but that also strengthen their self-efficacy and confidence,” Kiefer said.
The ongoing Always #LikeAGirl campaign, launched in 2014, also empowers girls and women to challenge the societal limitations they face. The campaign reclaims a phrase often used to discourage women and girls in the classroom or in sports, and uses it to push them to accomplish their goals. After seeing the campaign, the number of people who have a positive association with the phrase “Like a Girl” increased from 19% to 76%.