In September, a story hit the news headlines in Kenya; and finally globally- a teenage girl committed suicide after being shamed by her teacher (a female no less) for 'soiling' her dress with her periods. The first question that hit me hard was: when did we as women decided that periods are shameful? It had never hit me that it is the case anywhere among women for I knew mostly men are the ones who view it as such! A young life ended just like that-for reasons so natural and beyond her control- it was alleged from family sources that it was her first periods so she had not prepared for it.
So based on the shame we seemingly have attached to our own bodies and natural processes, are we really fighting the right battle in ensuring that girls and women access dignity in their sexual and reproductive health? As much as there are efforts to distribute sanitary towels especially to school going girls in marginalized communities; which most governments in developing countries are either doing or have pledged to, is the behavior even of women themselves right in dealing with the issue? Even with access to proper menstrual hygiene products/services, why would it be an issue of shame to handle one's own periods or accidentally soil clothes?
I realized that this shame has contributed a lot to hindering absorption of reusable towels-not based on any empirical data but general observation. The mention of reusable towels is very repulsive yet it presents a very viable alternative both in quality and sustainability including being friendly to environment. manufactured towels are definitely the best choice in terms of convenience but affordability remains a great hindrance. During the menstrual hygiene month, government and other organizations distribute towels to sampled school girls, mostly a packet each- until the next year. How is this even viable in the long term?
Shaming one another on behalf of nature then stands in the middle of offering other solutions and also the quest to fully do away with gender based prejudices especially those involving self shaming..... Can we manage to stop this long standing behavior of self hate and shaming? Behavioral change should then be integral to menstrual hygiene and other reproductive health efforts