Breaking the stigma around menstruation

Mar 13, 2024

“I felt embarrassed to be a girl and felt like it was punishment,” recalls 15-year-old Falguni, describing her first period. She was leaving for school in her village in Bangladesh when it happened for the first time. Her mother taught her to use a cloth to manage the bleeding.

“I didn’t have enough knowledge about how and why it happens, and what to do. So, naturally, I was scared and confused. I will never forget that experience,” she explains.

Falguni’s experience is not unique. Many girls in her village lack basic knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health, and struggle to access menstrual hygiene supplies. Girls are subjected to stigma or miss school because of difficulties managing their menstrual hygiene.

In Morrelgonj, the subdistrict where Falguni lives, an estimated one in 10 girls miss school at some point during their period.

There is often shame and taboo surrounding menstruation in Bangladesh. Access to sexual education is essential for not only menstrual literacy but also for a girl’s self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.

Looking top down, four girls sit at a table playing a colourful board game.

Girls play Ludu together at school in Bangladesh. The Youth Empowered project addresses and prioritizes menstrual hygiene management in schools, helping to increase attendance for girls.

To increase awareness and education, the Youth Empowered project, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada, works with adolescent girls in WASH and menstrual hygiene management to improve school attendance. The project supports schools with appropriate facilities and services for girls, including the establishment of menstrual health management corners in schools to give girls a private space, and helping schools access sanitary pad vending machines and sanitary pad incinerators.

Youth Empowered also educates girls on the use of sanitary pads. After registering with the project, Falguni regularly received sanitary pads from the project every month, as well as training on menstrual hygiene management.

Today, Falguni feels empowered and effectively manages her menstrual period. She advocates among her peers in schools and communities, telling them about the importance of using sanitary pads.

“I have now taken it upon myself to help other girls in school experiencing their first menstrual period,” she says. “Now I know that it’s a normal human body function and there is no need to be embarrassed.”