Education, tackling stigma and free period products are needed to effectively end ‘Toxic Trio’ of period injustices
Today, Plan International Ireland re-launches its We Need To Talk. Period. campaign.
The organisation’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. The ‘Toxic Trio’ refers to the unaffordability of period products, a lack of menstrual education, and period stigma.
To address these issues, Plan International is calling for proper menstrual education, an end to period stigma, and the universal provision of free period products. The organisation is also recommending that menstrual health and hygiene management be built into Ireland’s overseas development assistance and humanitarian response.
The We Need To Talk. Period. campaign was originally launched in 2018 and shared the stark findings of Plan International Ireland’s survey into girls’ experiences of period poverty and stigma in Ireland. The 2018 research found that half of girls in Ireland aged 12-19 struggled to afford period products, half did not find school useful for information about their periods and 55% were embarrassed by their periods.
The international development and humanitarian organisation, which focuses on children’s rights and equality for girls, is also encouraging people to talk openly about their periods on social media to break the shame and stigma.
Barbara Scettri, Development Programmes Manager with Plan International Ireland, said: “Tackling the ‘Toxic Trio’ of period injustices would have a hugely positive impact on girls, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalised. We have seen in our work in development and humanitarian contexts how girls may end up dropping out of education when they cannot manage their periods. This puts them at huge risk of gender-based violence, including child marriage. Additionally, girls may be using rags, grass or paper to manage their periods which can be hugely detrimental to their health.”
She continued: “COVID-19 has made it even more difficult for girls and women to manage their periods in safety and dignity. Our 2020 Periods in a Pandemic report showed how global lockdowns have led to shortages and price hikes in products, restricted access to hygiene and sanitation facilities, and an increase in period stigma. Periods don’t stop during a pandemic and this report highlights the importance of including menstrual health & hygiene management in responding to crises.”
Ending period poverty and period stigma is hugely important to Plan International Ireland’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP). Amara and Emma are two members of the YAP who are calling for action addressing the ‘Toxic Trio.’
Amara said: “We are tired of being shamed for our periods. Menstruation is a perfectly normal part of life, why should we feel ashamed? It’s very encouraging to see the action being taken across the country to provide free period products to all. The promise to provide free products by government is very welcome but is just one piece of the puzzle. More than half of the girls we surveyed felt embarrassed by their periods. We want people who have periods to be able to discuss them openly and without fear of stigma or shame. While some progress has been made, the reality is: We Still Need To Talk. Period.”
Emma said: “Proper education on periods is so important. Half of the girls we surveyed in 2018 did not find school useful for information about their periods. Education on periods should be ongoing throughout school and cover more than the basic biology of menstruation. Boys need to be included in these conversations too. It’s not just a ‘women’s issue’ – it’s an issue of gender equality and social justice.”
Plan International is asking people to get involved in the campaign by sharing stories of their first periods and experiences with period shame on social media using the hashtags #WeNeedToTalkPeriod and #MyFirstPeriod. Visit www.plan.ie for more information.