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Health

Why are we still embarrassed to talk about periods?

October 9th 2017 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru / 0 comment

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New findings reveal that more than a quarter of girls don’t know what to do when they start their period and nearly half are embarrassed by them. It’s time to break the stigma

Periods - they’re a natural part of life, yet why is talking about them still viewed as anything but that? It’s a stigma that’s proven especially hard to shake, and the results of a new survey highlight the impact that’s having on young women and girls.

The survey by girls’ rights charity Plan International UK, showed that nearly half of the 1,000 girls they spoke to are embarrassed by their periods and a quarter don’t know what to do when they start their period. Furthermore, 49 per cent said they’d missed an entire day of school because of their period, and 59 per cent of those had made up a lie or an excuse to cover it up. Additionally, 82 per cent said they’d hidden or concealed their sanitary products and almost three quarters said they felt embarrassed even buying them.

These findings certainly resonate with me as a 31-year-old. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve made a pad disappear up my sleeve on my way to the Ladies’ or covered my packet of bright blue Always Nights in my basket with that night’s pizza box with the sleight of hand of a magician. It’s a mentality that seems ingrained - I’ve done it for years.

What would have helped in my younger years? Not treating it as a ‘girls’ issue’ for one, as well as greater assistance from the media in portraying periods as they really are: the stains, the cramps and the fact that our monthly bleeds are not blue (last time I checked, I wasn’t a Smurf). I’ve harboured the same insecurities as were highlighted in the new survey well into my thirties. And much to my dismay, these are what have become normalised, rather than our periods themselves.

In a time where awareness around women’s health issues is growing, these stats are certain to come as a shock to many. It’s a mindset that the charity is looking to challenge with its #weallbleed campaign - an initiative calling for periods to be normalised.

“Girls are telling us that they are embarrassed, confused and ashamed about periods, a completely natural biological process which happens to half the global population," Tanya Barron, Plan International’s Chief Executive told The Telegraph. “As a society, we obsessively euphemise, belittle and silence menstruation; we need to address the impact this is having on girls. As a global girls’ rights charity, we know that pervading cultural taboos and lack of education around periods can have a damaging impact on the lives of girls both here in the UK and across the world, exposing them to discrimination and preventing them from fulfilling their potential.”

If perceptions aren’t changed now, these stats serve as a worrying indication that others may find breaking out of similar mental cycles just as challenging as they enter adulthood.

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