How Far We’ve Come

The 28th May was a special day here at TABOO: Menstrual Hygiene Day! Initiated in 2014, Menstrual Hygiene Day is an annual awareness day to highlight the importance of menstrual health. Let’s take a look at what’s been achieved in those five years!

In August 2017 Human Rights Watch, the world’s leading research and advocacy platform on human rights, released a guide on menstrual hygiene management. It’s since become benchmark framework for aid and development organisations to integrate menstrual hygiene standards in their projects.

In August 2018, the Scottish government became the first in the world to provide free sanitary products to all its school, college and university students. This decision was made on the back of research by Women for Independence which found that one in five Scottish women had experienced period poverty.

Image sourced from Unsplash

In 2017 Plan International found that 12% of girls in the UK were forced to improvise with their sanitary care, using things like toilet rolls instead of pads. Their research influenced the English government to follow Scotland’s commitment. In March 2019 England pledged to provide free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges from September. In April, the Welsh government followed suit.

Though Australia isn’t quite there yet, our government voted to scrap the tampon tax late last year. After twenty years of campaigning, the 10% tax on pads and tampons was finally removed in January. It’s estimated to save Australian women $30 million annually.

Last year saw the release of two groundbreaking films on India’s menstrual taboo and hygiene issues. One was Pad Man, a Bollywood comedy based on the true story of Arunachalam Muruganantham – the man who’s been called the ‘champion of menstrual health’ in India. Since 1998, he’s dedicated his life to making sanitary items more affordable, after discovering his wife was using dirty cloth he ‘would not even use to clean (his) scooter.’ In the process, his wife left him and his community ostracised him; but he’s distributed more than 600 pad-making machines across the country and provided much-needed employment to India’s less-privileged. You can read all about his story here or watch Pad Man here.  

Period. End of Sentence is a short documentary on one of Muruganantham’s pad-making machines, centred on the women benefiting from the business and access to affordable sanitary care. It’s a story of hope and celebration, which showcases women at the heart of the India’s sanitary revolution. And, it won an Oscar earlier this year! You can watch the 26-minute film on Netflix here.

And while I couldn’t find any information specific to the past five years, One Girl’s Launch Pad had transformed the standards of menstrual hygiene and education in Sierra Leone. They’ve reached over 13,000 schools and communities, educated over 22,000 women and girls on menstrual hygiene, and distributed over 22,000 packets of pads. This was all done since their establishment in 2010, how incredible! Alicia wrote all about their impact in last month’s newsletter, if you missed it, click here. Days for Girls is another similar organisation based in Kenya, which has reached over a million girls across the world since 2008.

While all of these stats are incredible, they can seem far beyond our little South Australian fingertips. But, this month marked the most exciting thing yet for the TABOO team. Our first order of pads and tampons has been made, and it’s being shipped to Australia as we speak. You can read all about it in Izzy and Eloise’s monthly update.

We’re on the brink of being able to tangibly fight period poverty around the world – and we’d love for you to join us! There’s so many ways to get involved. Hit up our inbox at [email protected] .

Words by Annabel Bowles

Annabel Bowles

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