Although menstruation is a natural process, it still faces a myriad social, cultural and religious stigmas. Menstrual health and hygiene is not talked about enough, and many women and girls suffer for it
Pharmacies or shops in Bangladesh still sell sanitary napkins wrapped in a paper so that others cannot see them.
If women have severe pain, bleeding or fatigue during periods, they cannot discuss their conditions freely.
To address such stigma, some television commercials (TVC) are trying to raise awareness about periods.
In one such commercial by Senora, a brother goes looking for his sister.
He finds her on the roof top and sees that she is upset.
She tells him that he will not understand why she is feeling this way.
Then he shows her a picture of a sanitary napkin packet and tells her that he actually understands. He then proceeds to order one for her.
When the TVC began circulating in the social media, many people posted negative comments about it.
It was upsetting to see that a natural process like menstruation is still frowned upon in our society.
During the nationwide shutdown in Bangladesh, a lot of women and girls faced trouble in ordering sanitary napkins online or going to the stores to buy them due to the social and cultural stigmas surrounding period.
Menstruation is a normal and natural process.
But talking about it, especially in public, is seen as a taboo in many countries of the world.
Menstruation still faces myriad social, cultural and religious stigmas in Bangladesh.
There are various superstitions about it as well.
Health officials say that despite increasing awareness about periods, women in the country are still at a risk of having health problems due to lack of menstrual hygiene.
Many girls or women use clothes because they cannot afford to buy high-priced sanitary napkins.
Many do not know how often they should change the napkins or pads. As a result, they are developing a risk of infertility and uterine cancer.
Food, cleanliness and public toilet for women
During her period, a woman typically loses 20 millilitres to 80 millilitres of blood. Some may have heavier flows and lose more.
This is why during menstruation, experts advise women to eat more nutritious food, such as the ones enriched with iron, protein, and vitamins.
Many women have difficult and painful periods due to health conditions such as PCOS or endometriosis. They need extra care and attention during this time.
Gynecologists have always insisted on a clean environment for menstruating women.
However, there are no clean public toilets for women in the country, which is why at times they have to go for hours without using a toilet. This is very harmful for the body.
In many big cities, clean public toilets are available in every busy corner.
In Sydney, Australia, every bus and train station has a toilet for women.
Cambodia is a small country, but the cleanliness of public toilets in its various cities is praiseworthy.
Emergency pad corners
One of the most common fears among schoolgirls is their periods will start while they are at school.
To ensure that they can overcome this fear, two youths Marzia Prova and Sakir Mati introduced emergency pad corners in 11 high schools in 11 districts across the country.
Their work was difficult, yet they want to introduce this corner in all 64 districts in phases.
Marzia Prova said, "The concept of emergency pad corner resolved many problems. We worked at remote areas where there are no pharmacies. If there is one, buying sanitary napkins from it is a tough job. Moreover, from the pharmacies or shops, girls need to buy a whole pack. But from the pad corners, they can buy a single piece. Many young males are involved in this programme and a total of 72 volunteers are involved in it across the country. It is a great thing that we have men working with us on this matter."
Along with introducing pad corners, they also arranged various workshops in schools which were attended by specialist doctors.
The students shared their experiences regarding menstruation and the doctors gave them advice.
In December 2019, 10 sanitary napkin vending machines were installed at 10 different spots at the Dhaka University campus.
The initiative was taken by members of the Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu), in association with the ACI Group.
According to a national survey titled "Bangladesh National Hygiene Baseline Survey-2014" in 2014, 86 percent of girls in Bangladesh use old clothes or rags during menstruation.
Around the world, other products are available in the market besides sanitary pads such as menstrual cups, tampons and period underwear.
Although the menstrual cup was invented in 1937, its popularity has grown in the last few years.
At the moment, it is being officially promoted in various countries in Asia and Africa.
Everyone should come forward to create more awareness about menstruation. Only then will the health risks and hesitation, along with stigmas attached to it, be eliminated.