A group of Bangladeshi girls, aged between 12 and 17, holds a courtyard meeting to learn about menstruation, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and use of contraceptives in 2012. (Photo: AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
Today, over 90 organizations from around the world are coming together to mark the first-ever Menstrual Hygiene Day. It's an opportunity to combat taboos surrounding something that's a normal biological process, and to draw attention to the millions of women and girls who don't have access to proper sanitary materials and toilets.
Some statistics that underline why the day is important: one in 10 girls in Africa, according to UNESCO, will miss out on school when they have their period, and eventually just drop out. In South Asia, according to a study from UNICEF, a full third of girls knew nothing about menstruation before getting their first period. And one study of schoolgirls in Ethiopia found that more than half of them miss between one and four days of school per month due to their periods.
"In 2014, it is completely unacceptable that a normal biological process like menstruation prevents women and girls worldwide from reaching their full potential," Ina Jurga, head of WASH in Schools at WASH United, said in a release (the Berlin-based WASH United is the organization that initiated Menstrual Hygiene Day). "It’s time to break the silence around menstruation!"
Among the celebrations marking the day is Menstravaganza, an event taking place in Toronto tomorrow to raise funds for Femme International's programs for schoolgirls in Kenya. It will feature films from Crankyfest (the world's only menstruation-themed online film festival) and a screening of Menstrual Man, a documentary about Arunachalam Muruganantham, the Indian inventor who launched a sanitary pad revolution in India.
Menstrual Hygiene Day organizers released this infographic to help show just how far the world is from its ideal scenario: "a world in which every woman and girl can manage her menstruation hygienically, in privacy, in safety and with dignity."