Trisa Ray Sibanda, B-Metro Reporter
A nightmare for every female is to go on their menstruation cycle when they don’t have protective sanitary towels.
Without proper protection, periods are humiliating and disabling for girls.
But while period cramps can be painful, period flow messy, and period timing inconvenient, periods should never be shameful.
Periods are a monthly biological function and a major part of a woman’s reproductive health.
Now, if a girl doesn’t have access to sanitary pads or a safe and clean place at school or at work to change them that becomes another reason to keep her home.
She starts missing a few days every month, she falls behind, and she may eventually drop out.
The idea of the pad is a pretty simple and ancient one, but the absorbent power of our current pads is such that they could probably blot an entire ink well.
Menstrual pads didn’t show up in the 21st century.
They have been mentioned as far back in history as the 10th century in Ancient Greece, where it was recorded that a Greek woman had thrown one of the menstrual rags, she had used at an admirer to get rid of him.
The earliest disposable pads were made of cotton wool which were covered with an absorbent liner, later found to be unsuccessful.
Before this revolution, most of the women around the world used a lot of unsafe methods to control their menstrual blood.
They used paper, moss, sand; grass and so forth which is then folded inside a cloth and used as sanitary pads, which on a long run caused a lot of harm to the human body.
Most of the sanitary pads are used only once, resulting in a lot of waste being generated annually.
Similar is the case with tampons, most of the women use tampons because of the convenience and comfort that it provides.
Despite what you may have heard, pads can be comfortable.
Now manufacturers make ultra-thin pads that do not let leaks through.
They are easy to use and change.
They do not take much time to put them on and they do not require having to touch down there and get blood on your hands.
Many women shared their experience with their periods.
The first women said: “If you have ever menstruated, then you have probably felt this feeling of embarrassment before.
Whether that be from bleeding through your clothing, leaking, not having menstrual products when you need them, or carrying menstrual products when you have them. We have all felt embarrassed”.
Another one said: “My friend in high school got her period during class and it stained her jeans and the chair!
That was bad and the boys didn’t know what to do, some laughed, some looked shook or scared.
She left to the bathroom and was so embarrassed but once she came back, no one said anything to her.
Ever since then, she learned to carry pads in her backpack”.
Unlike other methods of menstrual engagement, sanitary pads are more comfortable and do not require any form of insertion into the vagina canal because sanitary pads have the disposable variety, you do not have to wear them for too long.
This helps you feel fresh and clean with every change.
Periods are gross and annoying although they are a relief when you are worried that you might be pregnant.
It is horrible and embarrassing to stain your clothes, especially when you are at work or school and can’t leave to get new clothes or on a warm day when you can’t cover it with a jacket or a sweater.
The worst part is when your period arrives unexpectedly and stains your clothes.
There are many families that cannot afford to provide these goods for their daughters, Nozinhle Ncube who has seen some people failing to get themselves pads commented on the issue.
“Pads are a basic need for all women and should be regarded as a basic women’s right,” she said.
Not all women are equal when it comes to menstrual hygiene management.
Period poverty is exacerbated by the social and economic deprivation which is a part of daily life for the most vulnerable women in society.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) defines period poverty as “the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products.”
UNFPA adds that the term ‘period poverty’ “also refers to the increased economic vulnerability women and girls face due to the financial burden posed by menstrual supplies.
These include not only sanitary napkins and tampons, but also related costs such as pain medication and underwear.”
This economic vulnerability forces girls and women around the world to resort to rudimentary forms of sanitary protection, putting their gynecological health at risk.
Girls and women risk contracting urogenital infections (vaginal thrush, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary infections) which often go untreated due to limited access to care in certain countries.
In Kenya, young girls from slums and rural areas turn to prostitution in order to pay for menstrual products.
This practice then leads to other issues such as sexual violence, STDs and teenage pregnancy.
Without access to culturally-appropriate sanitary products and secure facilities to protect their privacy, these women are deprived of dignity during their periods.
This lack of privacy creates barriers to education for girls in many developing countries.
According to UNESCO, in sub-Saharan Africa, one girl in ten skips school during her menstrual cycle and many are taken out of the education system altogether as soon as they start menstruating.
This disengagement is due to a lack of hygiene products and adequate toilet facilities in schools.
Poor menstrual hygiene management also results in self-isolation from society or coerced exclusion, when its roots lie in restrictions based on negative socio-cultural perceptions.
To resolve these issues, government must work with international organisations and civil society groups.
A concerted effort is a must because proper menstrual hygiene management not only allows girls and women to live comfortably, but also makes them more confident and increases their chances of being active citizens.
Without pads, chances of achieving gender equality and equity are slim.