Menstrual Hygiene Day Celebrates Menstruation and Raises Awareness about the Barriers Some Face to Accessing Sanitary Products

Menstrual Hygiene means all of the ways that you manage your monthly cycle: from the products you use, to the way you clean them, to how it impacts your day-to-day life. Menstrual Hygiene has become so second-nature to those of us who menstruate that you may not give it a second thought. So what’s all the fuss about Menstrual Hygiene then?

iStock_000084858101_Large v2Well as it turns out, menstrual hygiene, or rather a lack of knowledge and the ability to access sanitary products, can have serious negative consequences for some menstruating people. Menstruation affects about half of the world’s population; yet in many parts of the world, the stigma and shame, as well as lack of sanitation and education around menstruation, negatively impacts the lives of millions of women and girls. From rural towns in developing countries to women who struggle with poverty and homelessness in urban communities, there are a plethora of barriers that women face to menstrual hygiene globally and locally.

Lack of Adequate Menstrual Hygiene has Negative Global Consequences
In some parts of the world, menstruation is known as a “week of shame.” According to UNICEF, 1 out of 10 school aged girls in Africa miss school for an entire week every month due to improper menstrual hygiene management. In South Pacific Asia, as many as 97% of young girls do not know that menstrual blood comes from the uterus and many are not taught about menstruation before they begin menstruating. A recent article in The Guardian also described how the outlawed and traditional practice of  banning women from the home, sometimes to a cow shed, during their week-long menstrual cycle  is still practiced in rural parts of Nepal.

In some regions, women and girls have no option but to use old rags, mud and leaves to care for their periods. Disposables are sometimes rarely an option, and when they are available, they can be extremely expensive and often pose a serious environiStock_000065311929_Large v2mental risk as there is seldom an appropriate infrastructure in place to handle the waste from plastic wrappers, applicators, and synthetic fibers.

Many communities continue to have limited access to clean water, health care and life essentials, including feminine hygiene protection. To add to this, cultural barriers can often include stigma, taboos, and shame around menstruation that in turn limit education and knowledge about menstrual hygiene.

Local Perspectives on Menstrual Hygiene
Communities of women and women in transition who struggle with poverty and homelessness also face many challenges when it comes to accessing feminine hygiene products. Families living in poverty can be forced to choose between spending money on rent, food, survival necessities or menstrual products. Once again, disposable menstrual products are often a short term solution to an ongoing need.  Communal Support initiatives such as food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens work hard to address some of the essential needs of people-in-need but frequently menstrual hygiene support can be deprioritized or not part of the conversation.

MHD LogoMenstrual Hygiene Day
In an effort to raise awareness of these barriers to menstruation, Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day dedicated to building awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene and the taboos surrounding menstruation, is observed on May 28th.

Are Menstrual Cups the Solution?
While menstrual cups like The DivaCup may seem like a great solution for women and girls who face barriers to menstruation, there are a few things that need to be considered. Populations in need sometimes lack or have severely limited access to clean potable water as well as health care services. This can unfortunately pose a serious health concern as the cups cannot be properly cleaned or cared for. Similarly, a lack of access to proper hand hygiene can also pose a health concern for using an internal product like a menstrual cup. In addition to this, access to medical care and education is often lacking. Internally worn products are also not recommended if the hymen needs to stay intact and in some cultures this is a concern.

While The DivaCup would love to help by sending our reusable menstrual cups, the reality is that this is not always the best course of action given the cultural and medical barriers.

Diva Helps by Partnering with Lunapads and the One4Her Program
That is why The DivaCup partners with Lunapads for the One4Her program for Menstrual Hygiene Day.Mackay 3RS The One4Her programs helps supply reusablecloth pads to women and girls in Zimbabwe,
Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. We feel this program both meets the needs and ensures sanitary protection for women and girls.  This year our Menstrual Hygiene Day Campaign will help supply the students of the Mackay School in Uganda with a set of reusable pads from AFRIpads.

For every The DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com for the entire month of May, Diva will donate a set of reusable pads to these students in Uganda. It’s a simple one for one: you buy a cup, we donate a set of reusable pads. Last year we donated 500 kits and our goal for this year is 600! Together, we can empower girls and women in need to have a better period experience. This May, make a #DivaDifference!

Other ways Diva Helps

Diva is also actively working with reputable organizations across the globe to provide cups to those in need. We have several large donation projects in Mali, Guatemala, and Ghana to provide cups to girls and young women in rural boarding schools, orphanages and urban communities. Often, a school based setting is a one of the best ways to introduce the option of menstrual cups into the community, so that the students are learning how to use the cup together and we can ensure they have potable water and facilities onsite to care for their cups.

We also have set up two pilot projects in Haiti and Tanzania to see how well the cup is received and for an assessment of if a menstrual cup is the right option for these communities. Partnering with health care professionals, such as doctors, nurses, midwives and birthing assistants in these communities has helped ensure that those receiving a cup will have access to ongoing healthcare services they need when there is often limited healthcare services available.

We are excited for these donation opportunities and the fantastic organizations we are working with and are continuing to improve menstrual care access so that all women can benefit from using a menstrual cup.

Diva International Inc. is committed to helping women find access to feminine hygiene products. If there is an organization that you feel may benefit from our support please contact our team at info@divacup.com.

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Growing Acceptance of Menstruation in Society

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Menstruation, monthly cycle, period… all of these are terms to describe a natural cycle that occurs routinely throughout much of our lives, and yet many of us find ourselves still talking in code when it comes to our cycles. We use terms like “on the rag,” “aunt flow,” and “shark week” to describe our periods, as if there is something to hide, but there really isn’t. Hiding the topic of menstruation in a cloud of secrecy and code words participates in keeping this topic in the margins and treated as a taboo subject in society. Topics that are taboo often come attached with stigma and shame, as well as a ton of misinformation – an incredibly unfortunate state seeing as how about half of the world’s population menstruates.

iStock_000079019285_Large 2But don’t fret just yet, things are starting to change! The past few years have been a revolutionary step forward when it comes to removing the stigma around menstruation in society. Countless women have spoken out in many different ways about menstrual shame and stigma; some even doing so through social media, like Rubi Kaur who famously posted about her period on Instagram, or Kiran Gandhi who ran a marathon while free-bleeding. Women’s periods have become an active conversation in media, art, business, etc. Many articles have been released in the past few months highlighting the amazing steps being taken around the world. One articled explained why 2015 is the year of the period, and major news outlets such as Newsweek and Huffington Post have covered the fight to de-stigmatize menstruation in society once and for all.

While many are working hard to de-stigmatize menstruation, it wasn’t always this way; in fact, there are some very interesting “herstory” facts from the past that would shock you! In the good old days, there were countless different cultural practices surrounding menstruation that were based largely on myths. For example, in many parts of the world, women would leave their families during their periods to join other women in a “menstrual hut” where they would share stories and rest. Menstruation was also seen as very powerful in many cultures. For instance, in Hinduism, the great mothers created the universe from “clotted substances” and in Mesopotamia, the goddess Ninhursag used a mixture of clay and menstrual blood to make humans. In Egyptian and Celtic cultures, menstrual blood was thought to turn morals into gods and goddesses. But of course, menstruation wasn’t always seen in a positive light. As history progressed, a more patriarchal view of menstruation emerged. Influential men like Aristotle and Hippocrates thought that menstruation was something toxic that must be avoided. For centuries, there was a prevailing negative opinion among many cultures surrounding menstruation; for example, some thought menstrual blood would turn wine sour, wither crops, and even dull steel.

The last several hundred years have unfortunately given menstruation a bad rap, but the way menstruation has been viewed has slowly begun to shift. Like the attitude of periods, the options for menstrual care has experienced dramatic changes as well. While disposable products have been on the scene for some time, the first pads were nothing like what we have today, but rather included bulky contraptions like suspenders and period belts holding them in place. Another option was the tampon which was popularized in the 1930s and for many women it was a new way to deal with their periods. Tampons were seen as more freeing and discreet. Interestingly enough, the reusable menstrual cup, with its many benefits, was also introduced in the 1930s but did not gain in popularity like tampons and pads, as disposable products seemed to represent the cultural climate at the time. More and more women are becoming more comfortable learning about the benefits of alternative options for menstrual care, including reusable pads and menstrual cups, like The DivaCup. This increased comfort means that they are also sharing their experiences with their friends, families and followers in life and online. The DivaCup is proud to be part of these important changes surrounding menstruation in society.

It is amazing to see just how far we have come in society today, but that’s not to say we couldn’t do so much more! Menstruation needs to be an open conversation in society among everyone. How will you make a #DivaDifference? #MenstruationMatters

 

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Menstrual Hygiene is Key to Global Development

When it comes to global development, in working to advance families and breaking the cycle of poverty, women’s empowerment is the key. However, a major obstacle that stands in the way of bringing all women to the forefront is the taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation.

MHDay_banner_blue_FBWomen’s empowerment and feminism are hot topics right now, especially when it comes to creating more educational equity on a global scale. However, no matter how many opportunities we create, women and girls will not be able to take full advantage of those opportunities if menstrual hygiene is not addressed. Periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. In Kenya, girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of a lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene. That is almost a full week of class, or 25% of one school month. Think about that… because of periods alone, girls are missing almost a whole quarter of their classes.

In many countries, periods can be scary because of what menstruation symbolizes—the transition from being a child to a woman, ready to be a wife and mother. In some other countries, as I have learned, getting your period can be the signifying event that prompts female genital mutilation, child marriage, and dropping out of school.

Inadequate menstrual hygiene management also has negative mental and physical consequences. In India, 70% of reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, and the effects can go so far as to affect maternal mortality. Unclean methods of maintaining menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of resources, or lack of education on the usage of products, can lead to infections ranging from skin irritation to something more fatal, like toxic shock syndrome. Poor menstrual hygiene management may also cause strange bodily odors and bleeding through one’s clothes, which causes women and girls to feel nervous and self-conscious when on their period.

This taboo around menstruation causes people to associate periods with weakness. A week in their month where girls feel emotionally on edge, in pain with cramps, confused about new food cravings, and worried about bleeding through their clothes. I, myself, before coming to the realization of how human and real it is as a woman to experience periods, identified my time of the month as a weakness.

Women (more so, all humans) deserve to feel confident and ready to reach their full potential, regardless of a biological function. Thus, the stigma surrounding the topic of menstruation is an obstacle standing in the way of the right to reach one’s full potential. Limiting the potential of essentially half of the world’s population due to menstruation is in itself a fundamental barrier to continued global development.

eng_facebook_girls_1This is one of the many reasons why a day like Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is observed every year on May 28th, is so important. Menstrual Hygiene Day raises awareness around menstrual health, the barriers that people who menstruate face, and the effects that inadequate education, sanitation, and understanding about menstruation can have on women and girls all around the world.

We all need to become advocates for menstruation. In the US, only about 20% of our government positions are held by women, and if that 80% who are men are afraid to talk about menstruation, women and girls all around the world will continue to feel silenced and less capable on their periods. It is clear that menstruation impacts more than just one week of each month in a woman’s life. The menstrual movement is a human movement, and it starts now, with all of us—boys, girls, men, women—let’s all give power to the period!

 

 

NadyaNadya Okamoto
Nadya Okamoto is an 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Camions of Care–a global nonprofit organization that strives to address the natural needs of women through advocacy, education, and service. Nadya founded Camions of Care after her family experienced a degree of homelessness, during which she discovered the unaddressed need of menstrual hygiene. Nadya wants people to understand that everyone deserves to have their natural needs met so they feel ready to achieve their full potential. She is also the Youth Director of Social Venture Partners Youth, is on the board of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, PLAN International USA, and is involved in many other school activities around law practice, politics, and gender equality.

  

Tips for Talking About Periods with Kids

Working as a sexologist at Sexpressions, a lot of people ask me how to talk to young people about periods and menstrual products. One thing I’ve learned from this is that parents and guardians are often more worried about these talks than kids! Hopefully some tips can help!

speech cloudsDon’t wait! Talk about periods as they come up
There’s a big idea that “the talk” needs to be one big sit down conversation. But the truth is that it should be discussed like any other subject, where you talk about it when it comes up! For instance, if your kids find your menstrual care products, that’s a perfect way to start the conversation! Anything can be explained in an age-appropriate way. You then add to their knowledge as they get older. Other great times to bring up the “period talk” is when you overhear people talking about periods, see commercials about menstruation, or see menstrual products in a store. All wonderful times to discuss!

Ask what they’ve heard
When the subject comes up, it’s often hard to gauge what they have heard about menstruation, good and bad. When periods come up, a good way to start a conversation is by asking what they’ve heard about periods and products like The DivaCup. This lets you know where to start, and might bring up some misinformation that you can  correct.calendar

Give them a plan for the first time
The first time a girl starts her period can be especially scary. Many girls worry it will happen at the worst possible time! It just might happen that way, but you can help calm them by giving them information in advance. Chances are they won’t bleed a lot the first time and if they are prepared on what to do, it will help ease the anxiety.

illustration [Converted]Give space when girls need it
Sometimes, the last thing that kids want to do is talk about puberty with their parents or guardians. This can be for a variety of reasons, and it helps to not take this personally! If this does happen, you can explain why it’s important to talk about it and perhaps explain that there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. You can also start by simply giving them some books and cool teen-friendly sites, like www.sexualityandyou.ca, to check out.

Talk about options
Having a first period can be an amazingly exciting experience for some, and a worrisome one for others. But when girls have information about what is normal and what is healthy, it helps!

Remember that pads, tampons and menstrual cups like The DivaCup can sound scary at first. Many girls are uncomfortable with their genitals especially when so much is changing at once. On top of that the thought of putting something inside their body might sound gross or painful to them. Talking them through their options with patience, will help girls grow more comfortable with their changing bodies.

 

Stephanie Mitelman, M.A., CSE
Stephanie is Montreal’s only AASECT certified sexuality educator and a national trainer on issues of sexual health and youth sexuality. She teaches at McGill and Concordia Universities and is a founding member of The Sexual Health Network of Quebec. In 2000, she started Sexpressions, which offers sexual health resources and training for teachers and front-line healthcare workers. She also regularly trains and consults in Aboriginal communities across Canada and on sex education, and specializes in working with youth with special needs. Visit Sexpressions.ca today to learn more!

 

Leaving the Nest

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Mother’s Day is almost here Campus Divas and to celebrate we thought we would take this time to remember how it felt to leave the nest for the first time and move out on our own! Think of it as the empty nest experience from a daughter’s point of view. We asked three of our Diva Team members the same question: How did leaving home affect the mother-daughter relationship?

 

Freedom - 3D renderAlyssa (aka Our Newly Out of the Home Diva):

I am one of those daughters that waited a very long time to leave the nest. In my defense, both of the post-secondary schools I attended were local and so there was no need for me to live on my own or in residence. It also made sense economically to live at home, but at the age of 25, I was ready to take the leap and live away from home for the first time.

There was just one problem; I am a bit of a hoarder! I love to go to yard sales and thrift stores to discover amazing finds for my “dream apartment” and so when it came time to actually move everything into that apartment, yikes! Moving makes you realize just how much stuff you have stored in one bedroom.

The entire day was a bit of a blur but I think I will always remember when I came back from the second trip that my dad and I took to get a few more things. I got inside the apartment and found that my mom had unpacked and put away a lot of my stuff! She had made my bed, set up my closet, and even put away my kitchen hardware. Even as I was leaving the nest she made sure that I was looked after as much as possible and she even gifted me a new electric tooth brush to make sure I would take care of my teeth (lol thanks mom). She really is the sweetest mom I could ask for and moving out has really made me appreciate all that she has done for me in my life.

Even now just a few days after moving out of the nest I have already called her to talk about our plans to go to some yard sales this weekend and just to talk about our days. She really isn’t just my mom, she is also one of my best friends and I know that moving won’t change that. I am looking forward to Mother’s Day this year when I can show that appreciation. Spoiler: I am taking my mom on a wine tour in Niagara for Mother’s Day this year!

 

two red balloonsPaige (aka Our Seasoned Out of the Nest Diva):

At 17, my parents and I drove hours from home into the parking lot of my new ‘home’ at a university campus. The goodbye had to be one of the hardest goodbye’s I’ve ever experienced, especially because I’ve never been apart from my parents for that long. My relationship with my parents growing up, especially with my mom, was very important to me. My mom and I were like peanut butter and jelly, we were best friends. I would tell her everything I would tell all my girlfriends. The thought of being away from home and losing that valuable connection was terrifying. As their car drove away, I knew that the first few weeks were going to be a huge adjustment.

After five years, I’m still living away from home – now moved in with my boyfriend. My mom and I still continue our amazing relationship. Those five years at university taught me a great deal of maturity. It taught me not to take things for granted, appreciate the small things, and always find a reason to call home (for me it wasn’t hard because my mom and I talk on the phone at least 5 times a day). My mother was there through the tough grades, the drama, and the monthly phone calls of “I want to come home,” but she always encouraged me not to give up.

Living away from home was probably the best thing that could have happened to my relationship with my mom. As I matured through the many different stages of university and being away from home, my mom grew with me. We created new experiences together and always knew that home wasn’t too far away. I believe that because of my relationship with my mom, I’m able to do so much more on my own. My mom taught me all the valuable lessons in life and now those lessons are being brought into my new home.

 

question parlez-vous francais? do you speak french?Nina (aka Our Lived Abroad Diva):

When I went off to university, well, I didn’t really go off anywhere! My university was located in my hometown, which meant I got to live at home while studying and save some money on expenses like rent and food. This arrangement worked for me financially, and I know that my mom was ecstatic to put off being an empty nester for a little while longer. She was always worried about me moving away and being on my own. I, however, was itching to get out into the world on my own and spread my wings. So when an opportunity to study abroad came up, I was more than willing to pack up and re-locate half way around the world.

When I left home for the first time, it was to go far, far away. To be exact, I moved to Paris, France for a 6-month exchange program. My initial feelings of moving out for the first time were overwhelmingly positive, engulfed in excitement at the opportunity to live and study abroad. In retrospect, I am certain that my mother went through an entirely different experience at that time sending me, her first-born daughter, off into a big city all by myself.

My relationship with my mother changed drastically after half a year abroad. My mother and I did not always see eye to eye before I left. She had grand plans of what she hoped I would do and achieve in life. As a first generation immigrant, my mother and I had not only a generational barrier when it came to seeing eye to eye, but also a cultural one. I was growing up in North America, with North American values, and she was culturally influenced by her Eastern European upbringing. From time to time, this created tension between us and while it was never tumultuous, our relationship had its ups and downs.

Studying abroad and not seeing my mom for 6 months made me appreciate her so much more. I appreciated the effort she put in every day to make sure our family unit ran smoothly, from making dinner to doing the laundry. I appreciated her effort coming home from work every day, exhausted and worn out, and still being the rock for our family’s emotional needs. I appreciated her love and affection that she gave me when I needed it in university, while stressing over exams or relationships, that was missing when I lived abroad. Of course, we Skyped as often as we could, but the time difference and busy schedules meant I couldn’t talk to my mom every day the way I did when I was still living at home with her. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate my mother before moving away, but the inability to have face-to-face time with her, to hug her, and talk to her when I needed to most was a hard lesson learned, and one that took 6,000 km and an ocean to really hit home.

 

Conclusion:

So there we have it: Three different Divas and three different experiences leaving the nest. From our first days away from home to being gone for a longer time, we think it is safe to say that leaving the nest can be just as hard on the birds flying away as it is on the mothers, parents or guardians, we leave behind. It also absolutely has a profound effect on our relationships with them going forward. So for all the moms, aunts, guardians and significant role models in our lives that we said goodbye to and whose homes we left behind, we just want to say those things we may not say nearly often enough:  Thank you. We love you and we miss you.

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With Love,

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