Menstrual Hygiene Day has been observed annually since 2013, to raise awareness about proper menstrual hygiene practices worldwide.
This aims to combat the negative impact of persisting taboos, stigmas, lack of education, limited access to hygiene products, and poor infrastructure.
In South Africa, where these challenges are compounded by the persistence of “period poverty”, the message behind Menstrual Hygiene Day is crucial to the health and wellbeing of young girls and women.
Kotex marketing manager, Caitlin Meredith, says many problems surrounding managing menstruation are rooted in misconceptions and myths perpetuated by misinformation.
She said societal barriers need to be broken down that hinder the understanding of a normal and a biological process and share information based on facts.
Before this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, Kotex urges all South Africans to support young girls and women in understanding and managing their menstrual cycle in a way that promotes good mental and physical health.
Young girls and women must be empowered with knowledge of proper menstrual hygiene practices, including access to affordable hygiene products and gender-sensitive sanitation facilities.
Education, support, and awareness around menstrual hygiene are essential in breaking the cycle of poverty and promoting gender equality in South Africa.
To ensure a sustainable solution to menstrual hygiene challenges, government and private sector interventions are integral in addressing the systemic barriers that hinder menstrual hygiene practices in the country.
Meredith, is contributing to the cause of menstrual hygiene education by highlighting the three most common myths surrounding periods. First, the myth that exercising during your menstrual cycle is harmful to your body is false.
Emerging evidence suggests that exercise during menstruation can ease menstrual cramps and combat feelings of melancholy by releasing endorphins – the body’s “happy hormones”. Women should be mindful of any physical limitations but equally encouraged to connect with their bodies and not avoid doing the things they love.
Second, the myth that vaginal discharge is always a sign of infection is an assumption that needs debunking. Discharge is normal, and women should be educated on their bodily functions before, during, and after their menstrual cycle. The different types of discharge should be distinguished between, ranging from white to grey, and women should use panty-liners for additional comfort.
The third myth is that period pains are the same for every woman. While it is normal to experience menstrual pain, period pains differ from woman to woman. On average, 50% of women suffer from menstrual pain, which can manifest in abdominal cramps and back pain. Pain relief methods should be determined on an individual basis.
These and other myths surrounding menstruation need to be eradicated through education and awareness. This knowledge empowers women to make informed decisions about their menstrual health and dispels the shame and taboos that persist in many cultures.
“The goal for menstrual hygiene education is to remove the barriers and misunderstandings that prevent women from accessing hygiene products, gender-sensitive sanitation facilities, and the fundamental right to manage their menstrual cycle with dignity.”
“We encourage everyone to take a few minutes this Menstrual Hygiene Day and share at least one of these facts on social media or in their everyday discussions. Every myth busted is a step towards creating schools, workplaces, and societies that are more in tune and respectful of the needs of young girls and women,” Meredith said.
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