Menstruation and everything you need to do it with dignity

Once, in one of my university classes, a professor rejected a colleague’s research project because he considered it “too explicit and inappropriate”; she talked about how menstrual poverty hinders access to education for girls and women in southern Mexico. In that same session, the professor accepted a project from another colleague who studied deaths in the midst of the so-called “war on drugs” and its impact on the manufacturing industry.

So the blood of menstrual cycle no, but that of violence yes?, we think. That’s how big the challenge continues to be to guarantee decent conditions for girls, women and menstruating people.

Although 1 out of every 2 people in Mexico menstruates, has menstruated or will menstruate sometime during their life, for approximately 2,600 days, the menstruation it is still one of the biggest taboos in society, it does not find spaces in public policies, nor in agenda discussions.

It was not until 2022 that, in Mexico, through the Fiscal Miscellaneous, the 16% VAT rate on menstrual management products was eliminated. And although the prices of menstrual management products have been reduced in these first months of the year, they are still unaffordable for a good part of the population.

In addition, talking about dignified menstruation implies much more than just access to pads, tampons or menstrual cups.

Between inequality, poverty and shame

Mexico is a very unequal country with a high prevalence of poverty and extreme poverty; These problems have a significant impact on the economic, social, cultural, educational, labor and, of course, the health field.

And although the processes experienced by menstruating women and people are diverse, the truth is that shame culture It still reaches us all. Hiding tampons and not letting anyone see them for any reason, waiting in a bathroom for hours until someone can pick you up when you’re soiled, skipping school or other activities out of pity, not knowing what happens to you during your first period because nobody told you about menstruation, excluding boys and men when talking about menstruation, and a long etcetera.

According to figures from Coneval (National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy), in Mexico 4 out of 10 women are poor, which places them in a situation of high difficulty in thinking about even accessing menstrual management products. .

But as Coneval’s own methodology indicates, poverty is multidimensional, that is, it not only considers people’s income, but also their access to social rights basics such as food, health, social security, quality housing, housing services and education.

This reflects that women in poverty also face other complexities to menstruate in dignity, such as lack of sexual and reproductive education, limited supply of drinking water or overcrowded conditions in the home. All these, fundamental factors for a menstruation healthy and dignified.

What does it mean to menstruate in dignity?

Access to education:

Around the country and in many regions of the world, menstruation is completely unknown to girls, women and menstruating people. In order to manage menstruation, you have to know what it is, where the blood comes from, what processes accompany it, what one color of blood implies and what another color implies. You have to know how to use a pad, tampon, or cup, how to remove them, how long they can be used, and even where and how to dispose of them.

Menstruation is a public health issue and sexual and reproductive education with a gender perspective is essential to dignify menstruation and the lives of those who menstruate.

Access to spaces:

In Mexico, 1 out of every 10 homes faces conditions of overcrowdingthat is, the inhabitants of the home are cramped and without the necessary personal space, according to figures from the ENIGH of the Inegi.

This implies that thousands of girls, women or menstruating people could be having problems managing their menstruation. Pads, tampons and menstrual cups need to be changed from time to time and to do so you need a bathroom or room, a personal space that provides privacy.

Access to basic services in the home:

Menstrual hygiene is essential to avoid infections or complications that put the health of menstruating people at risk. Bathing, washing hands and disposing of garbage are basic activities in everyday life, and especially during the period of menstruation, and to carry them out you need to have basic services at home: Watergas, electricity.

In Mexico, about 22% of the population lacks basic services at home, according to Coneval figures.

Access to menstrual management products:

Having access to pads, tampons and menstrual cups, of course, is essential to menstruate in dignity. This is one of the aspects that has become more visible, compared to the rest of the basic rights for a dignified menstruation, however, there is still a long way to go to guarantee these products to all girls, women and menstruating people.

It is estimated that the poor women spend 2.5 times more than other women on menstrual management products. And in Mexico, 11% of the population is still in extreme poverty, which means that they cannot even afford the food basket; pads or tampons become unaffordable.

Access to health institutions:

Menstruation and its management not only involve bleeding, some women may face intense cramps, breakthrough bleeding, flows or other symptoms related to the menstrual cycle. On some occasions it can be part of their own cycle, on others they can talk about diseases or conditions that require diagnosis.

To be diagnosed and treated, it is necessary to have access to health institutions and in Mexico around 36% of the population lacks this right.

Eradicate the taboo, now

Although there is still a long way to go in terms of menstrual health and public policies that intersect from various areas to guarantee menstrual processes in healthy and dignified conditions, the truth is that some progress is beginning to be seen.

The collective visibility of this fundamental process in the lives of girls, women and menstruating people is essential to eradicate the culture of shame and the taboos that revolve around menstruation.

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