every woman deserves a peaceful period

Like most women I know, I consider getting my period A Drag: it's uncomfortable, inconvenient--and to make matters worse, there's that feeling, widely acknowledged, that it's something you're not supposed to talk about. Luckily, for those of us in the western world, that feeling is mostly in our heads. My husband doesn't mind talking about it in the slightest. He always brings me treats, and when I sometimes, occasionally, get cranky or impatient, he calls me "sailor moon" (get it?) and is generally very sympathetic.

Clearly, even on my very worst days, I have it good. I'm not the richest lady in the world, but I can always afford feminine products--and even if I couldn't, the tampon dispensers in all of the bathrooms at my school are unlocked and hanging open, available to everyone (thanks, Carnegie Mellon!) I can take showers pretty much whenever I want, in the privacy of my own home. In short, I never have to worry about my health, safety, or social standing as a result of this regular event.
Yes, it's inconvenient. But, really, that's all. 

In this I am, of course, incredibly lucky. Because despite the fact that nearly half the world's population gets their period every single month, there are, infuriatingly, many many places where people are not afforded the proper care and resources to cope with it, let alone the sympathy and dignity they deserve. In an AC Nielsen study performed in 2011, 88% of women in India reported using cloth, ashes, or even husk sand as a substitute for sanitary napkins, which most say they cannot afford. Not only do girls regularly miss class when they're on their periods, many drop out of school altogether once they begin menstruating, due to the stigma associated with this perfectly normal aspect of womanhood. You may have already heard the shocking story of Asma Rubber Private Limited, where female employees were subjected to strip searches after a used pad was found in one of the bathrooms.

Here at home, the situation isn't much better for those individuals unfortunate enough to be living on the streets. A recent article featured on Aljazeera called attention to the challenges and dangers that homeless women face as a result of getting their periods. Their access to bathroom and shower facilities are severely limited, causing them to resort to unsafe hygienic practices out of necessity. Pads and tampons are constantly in high demand, but according to shelter staff interviewed in this article and elsewhere, such items are rarely donated by the public.

So, what can you do about it? Well, if you want to let Asma know how outraged you are by its behavior toward its female employees, you can participate in Kiss Of Love's "Red Alert: You've Got a Napkin!" campaign, by sending sanitary napkins--new or used--to the company. Although, due to the as-yet-unconfirmed details of the story, you may consider this to be a little hasty.

But if you're feeling productive, rather than vindictive, there are more constructive routes you might take. For example, you might organize a tampon or pad drive for homeless women in your local area (here are seven steps for doing so) or you could choose to donate directly. Start-rite offers pretty steep discounts on bulk orders of tampons, pads, and the myriad other hygiene products homeless shelters are in need of, which you can have shipped to the shelter of your choosing (here's a national directory for locating shelters in your area). It won't solve everyone's problems forever, and it might not be the kind of thing you can do every day. But it's something! Remember, every little bit helps!

image via here

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