Menstrual Hygiene Day is held each year on the 28th May with a much needed aim to raise awareness of menstrual education. We applaud this! We need this. Any conversation that we can have which will help to end period shame and all the silly stigmas that surround it is 100% welcomed by WUKA.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Menstrual Hygiene Day is still, sadly, very much needed. We need to continue to fight, to break the silence and to change the negative norms that still surround one of the most natural biological events in the human body. We need to continue to smash those taboos and have those difficult conversations. And we need to help the campaign’s mission to create a world where nobody is held back by their period- where anybody can wake up and kick ass if they want to.
So obviously, here at WUKA we fully support Menstrual Hygiene Day- and seeing as we’re all about smashing taboos and raising awareness, we thought we’d share five things you might not know about the campaign itself.
1. It’s held on the 28th of May to represent the ‘average menstrual cycle’
We’ve probably all been told that most ‘normal’ menstrual cycles are 28 days long, right? Notice we put ‘normal’ in quotation marks, because who’s body actually conforms to the average norms anyway? 28 days might be average, but there’s actually quite a large range of what can be a normal cycle length for most. Your menstrual cycle can last anywhere from 21 to 42 days in reality- and the average 28 day cycle really isn’t the norm for many at all.
So Menstrual Hygiene Day is held on the 28th day (to represent a 28 day cycle) of the 5th month (to represent the average cycle length of 5 days)- despite the fact that loads of us fall outside of this average every single month.
The point here is to raise awareness of the fact that a 5 day period every 28 days is ‘normal’ for many, but might not be normal for you. Knowing your own body, your own cycle and your own flow is one of the most empowering things that you can do for yourself, so challenge this norm if it doesn’t exist for you.
2. We actually prefer the term ‘Health’ over ‘Hygiene
The official dictionary definition of ‘hygiene’ is ‘the degree to which people keep themselves or their environment clean.’
While we agree with WASH United’s view that the term hygiene focuses on ‘what women and girls need to manage their periods safely, hygienically and without shame’ we do also feel that there is so much more to menstrual education than this.
When it comes to menstruation, the word ‘hygiene’ implies that having a period is somehow unhygienic, that we should be concerned with hygiene and cleanliness rather than health when we talk about the menstrual cycle. It implies that period blood is dirty, that women are unhygienic when they’re bleeding. In our opinion, it gives the wrong impression about periods- and this can only aid in furthering the stigmas that already exist when we talk about menstruation.
In contrast, the word ‘health’ has a dictionary definition of ‘complete physical, mental and social well-being’- which we feel aligns much better with the message we want to get across. We are not ill when we bleed. We are not dirty or unhygienic. We are having a period. Our bodies are performing a very natural biological process- an amazing process which should be celebrated!
The term health can encapsulate everything we need to know and understand about periods so much better. The physiological processes that take place, the affect that hormones have on our mental heath, societal attitudes… this is where we need to get better at educating, moving away from ‘hygiene’ and taking a stand against period shaming.
3. It’s not just one day
Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed on the 28th May each year, but this is really just the peak of year-long activity. Tireless campaigning and other work is carried out each and every other day of the year too; we need more than one day to make our voices heard and to spread our message far and wide.
Menstrual Hygiene Day was first initiated by WASH United, a German non-profit, in 2013. WASH United advocate for education with a focus on menstrual hygiene and human rights, and they set up the first awareness day on social media only, testing the waters to see if it was something that other organisations would support.
Today, everyone is encouraged to take part, whether they’re an official partner or not. The more voices we have, the louder we roar. So look out for smaller campaigns throughout the year too.
4. The campaign has reached more than 1 billion people so far
And this is why the campaign is worth getting behind. It has a strong, clear message- and it has the power to reach even more people by 2030, the date by which the campaign intends to have created a world where nobody is held back by their period.
1 billion people. That’s 500 times the amount of menstrual waste that ends up being thrown away each year. Five times more than the number of people who are menstruating across the UK. That’s amazing!
And now think how much more amazing it could be. 1 billion people receiving positive messaging around periods, information that smashes taboos and starts a meaningful conversation about periods… that could be 2 billion. That could take the 2021 figures of 700 partner organisations to 800, 900, 1,000… that could cut period tax in more countries, help to end period poverty for more people and change the lives of so many. Your support can help the campaign get there.
5. Last year’s campaign was a record breaker
2022’s campaign reached more than 687 million people worldwide, but the fact remains that funding is still significantly lacking. Despite a 21% increase on social media reach, despite a 78% increase on media coverage and despite a 14% increase in Menstrual Hygiene Day partners, menstrual health and hygiene related challenges still exist.
So we need to make this year’s campaign even bigger and even better. You can get involved. Add your voice to the campaign- find out how here. Let’s make sure that this year, we all wake up, kick ass and make the changes we need to make by 2030, so that we can end period stigma once and for all!
Why is menstrual hygiene day celebrated?
The issue of menstruation, menstrual health and menstrual hygiene is ongoing all over the world. Menstruating people are still discriminated against, facing a lack of equation, healthcare and adequate products to help them manage their period with dignity.
This is why we celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day, so that we can challenge the stigmas and break the silence, encouraging much needed funding to help those who need it.
How do you celebrate menstrual hygiene day?
There are various campaigns and events taking place around the world on the 28th May, but there are other, smaller, events taking place on other days too. You can show your support in small ways by using the #MHDay23 hashtag on social media, and you can visit the Menstrual Hygiene campaign page to find out other ways to take part.
Most importantly, you can use your voice to shout loud and proud and to help spread the word that action is needed NOW.
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