Girls missing school because of their periods is not a rare problem. In parts of the developing world, that is – in rural Uganda girls miss around eight days of school each term due to period stigma and a lack of resources; in Nepal, approximately 30% of girls miss school during their periods; one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle, with some dropping out altogether once they begin menstruating.
While it may come as a surprise to Westerners, girls and young women in Britain are also missing school due to lack of access to sanitary products.
Young girls in Leeds (West Yorkshire) from low-income families are avoiding school classes because they can't afford sanitary protection during their periods, according to a story in the british Metro newspaper.
Charity Freedom4Girls, which traditionally sends sanitary items to schoolgirls in Africa, was contacted by teachers in the English city after they found some of their female students who bunk off every month were doing so because they didn't have access to period products.
The worrying story shows that it's not only girls in parts of Asia and Africa that are missing out on vital education because of physicality. Girls in other developed nations are too.
As Tina Leslie, project co-ordinator for Freedom4Girls, says, "What we've heard about is the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure." She's right – this story highlights a much bigger problem when it comes to periods.
Female asylum seekers and others who simply cannot afford it are also often left without tampons, sanitary napkins or other period products. Many women who are living in poverty simply can't afford the monthly cost of bleeding. Depending on how heavy the flow, women can spend up to 15 $ on tampons, sanitary napkins, etc.
But how can we expect female hygiene products to be easily accessible (or free of charge) when women bleeding is still widely unmentionable?
Even how this news story has been addressed in the press proves my point. Girls skipping school because they don't have access to tampons or sanitary napkins should be front page news, not a small paragraph hidden in between pages. What's more: the girls missing school are branded "truants" in the headline, a somewhat misleading, negative term that shouldn't be assigned to unfortunate kids who don't have the basic items needed to get by, but intentional absences from education with no excuse.
How can women and girls have equal opportunities when one of their natural biological processes is –still– treated like a dirty secret?
This discussion is so obvious and boring – I can't quite believe we're still struggling to improve menstruation awareness and equip all females with access to sanitary products. Major eye-roll for society from me right now.