The ability deal with menstruation sanitarily, silently, and safely is, without a doubt, a privilege afforded to very few women. Although many people living in the United States might consider menstruation as an uncomfortable topic for discussion, open dialogue about periods and menstrual health is a vital part of maintaining the safety and dignity of all women. The impact of open dialogue about menstruation is threefold for women who don’t have easy access to sanitary napkins or tampons—women without financial means, women who live in towns without affordable menstrual supplies, women who are taught to be ashamed of their own menstrual cycles.
In 2012, Good Neighbors launched the Good Sisters Club in Malawi, which aims to foster conversation about periods among girls in rural Malawi. But our advocacy isn’t simply lip service: our Clean Body initiative has helped hundreds of young girls and women to empower themselves and their bodies by using hygienic and reusable cotton maxi pads when Aunt Flo comes to visit.
The ability to comfortably menstruate has not always been afforded to these Malawian women and many others. But as the Good Sisters Club has grown, the impact sex and menstrual education has had on these women has become all the more salient. Regardless of what society might suggest, having a period should not be a source of shame for any woman.
Good Neighbors has partnered with Menstrual Hygiene Day—which is celebrated annually on May 28th—in order to further address these inequalities and facilitate more meaningful period-related discussions. But while Menstrual Health Day is a great place to
start these life-changing conversations, menstrual health awareness needs to expand beyond May 28th.
The next time you run to the nearest Duane Reade or CVS to purchase some maxi pads, remember that not every woman has the same privilege of access. Every time you open a new box of tampons, consider the role you play in ensuring the confidence and menstrual
health of women who are taught to conceal their periods in unsafe ways that might lead to infections or viruses. Using the resources provided on the Menstrual Hygiene Day website and many others, you can facilitate crucial menstrual health-related discussions within your own community.
Good Neighbors is launching its recruitment efforts for the LA Big5K run/walk on Saturday, March 14, 2015, benefiting the Good Sisters clubs throughout Malawi. Our goal is to raise funds to grow the Good Sisters Club in Katsumwa from 50 girls to 120 girls, and provide enough fabrics and sewing materials so each girl enrolled can make their own reusable sanitary pads. In addition, we plan to build a private toilet and sanitary facility so girls can take care of their needs with dignity, and also provide school book bags for each girl so they can hide their sanitary pads when they go to school, to avoid any unwanted attention. By supporting Good Sisters, our goal is to increase awareness of gender inequality throughout their community, so girls can support and empower each other in a safe environment.