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We Need to Talk. Period.

In 2018, Plan Ireland’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) carried out a research to address the ‘toxic trio’ of period injustice in Ireland* (the unaffordability of period products, lack of menstrual education and shame/stigma around periods). Among the 1100 girls surveyed between the ages 12-19+, 50% struggled to afford period products, and did not find school useful for information about their periods and 55% were embarrassed by their periods.

Most importantly, the campaign sought to address the impact of poor menstrual hygiene management on girls’ education and lives, using girls’ experiences in Ireland and Uganda.

A key finding was that 61% of girls surveyed (in Ireland) had missed school as a direct result of their period and 88% felt less able to pay attention during class. Similar figures were discovered among Ugandan girls as they missed school due to lack of period products, access to sanitary facilities and fear of being embarrassed by boys. This revealed that even miles away, girls have a shared experience of problems when dealing with menstruation.

In response to this, Plan International has been working alongside the government in Uganda since 2015 to provide menstruation training for pupils and teachers and monitor the standard of menstrual hygiene facilities in schools. Girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 18 come together to learn about periods in Menstrual Hygiene Management Clubs. They make reusable sanitary pads out of cotton and plastic, which the girls can take home and with access to these necessities, they can focus on their studies. The clubs also use song and role-plays about periods to combat negative social norms, and to eliminate stigma.

A HISTORIC DAY AT DÁIL ÉIREANN 

Plan International Ireland welcomed the first cross-party motion brought by the Women’s Caucus to the Dáil, which was passed as an important step to achieving equality for women. It aimed to tackle Period Poverty, which is a real issue for women and has shown to have negative impacts on their education, well-being and quality of life.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic drove back progress as girls and women found it more difficult to manage their periods in safety and dignity. Our 2020 Periods in a Pandemic report showed how global lockdowns led to shortages and price hikes in products, restricted access to hygiene and sanitation facilities, and an increase in period stigma. The report highlights the importance of including menstrual health and hygiene management in responding to crises.

RE-LAUNCH

This led to the re-launch of our period justice campaign as we discovered that in 2021, the conversation is far from over – the reality is that we (still) need to talk. Period.

The organization’s Principles for Period Justice calls for four key actions to address the so-called ‘Toxic Trio’ of period injustices for girls, women and people who menstruate. Plan International is calling for proper menstrual education, an end to period stigma, and the universal provision of free period products. The organization is also recommending that menstrual health and hygiene management be built into Ireland’s overseas development assistance and humanitarian response. 

In Ireland, the YAP contributed to the campaign by getting involved in the #WeNeedToTalkPeriod #MyFirstPeriod series on our social media platforms where they called for action addressing period poverty and the shame/stigma around menstruation.

Senator Rebecca Moynihan added her voice to the campaign by sharing her own period experience on social media (https://twitter.com/i/status/1384523566109151232)

YAP member, Megan Carey addressed the fight to de-stigmatize women’s bodies in this article: https://stand.ie/destigmatisation-of-womens-bodies-2021/

To push the virtual conversation and build awareness on the issue, YAP members Jessica Gill and Mairead Butler represented Plan Ireland at a webinar organized by the Irish Centre for Human Rights. Applying a human rights lens to discussions about period poverty exhibits the right to Menstrual Hygiene Management as an issue of state responsibility.

Plan Ireland’s 2018 research was quoted in the announcement of Lidl’s Period Poverty initiative in partnership with Homeless Period Ireland which sought to offer free period products in stores nationwide. Following that, YAP member Amara Onyegiri was interviewed on EuroNews to discuss period education and stigma in Ireland and around the world.

At Plan International we work to dispel the stigma and shame that girls feel about their period.

Help us to break the silence.

We Need To Talk. Period.

(* for girls, women and all people who menstruate)