Meghan Markle is no woman to shy away from bringing up issues about equality and identity, as she opened up about being a biracial actress in a piece in December last year.
And now, with International Women’s Day barely behind us, Markle has tackled another issue in a new powerful essay for Time magazine: periods.
In an article titled ‘How Periods Affect Potential’, the actress talks about the stigma girls and women face in developing countries simply for having their periods.
“From sub-Saharan Africa to India, Iran, and several other countries, the stigma surrounding menstruation and lack of access to proper sanitation directly inhibit young women from pursuing an education,” she writes.
She discusses how in many areas around the world, the huge taboo surrounding periods directly hinders girls’ education, and thus their ambitions.
She points out, for example, that even if a girl is in school and misses school while menstruating, it “cumulatively that puts her behind her male classmates by 145 days”.
“Based on societal ignominy in the developing world, shame surrounding menstruation and its direct barrier to girls education remains a hushed conversation,” she says.
“As a result, both household dialogue and policy making discussions often leave Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) off the table.
“Former First Lady Michelle Obama spoke directly about this subject at the World Bank in April 2016, and various NGOs actively seek out policy reform and programming to address this concern, yet the topic remains neglected.”
She then recalls her own travels to India to meet women and girls directly affected by this.
“I traveled to Delhi and Mumbai this January with World Vision to meet girls and women directly impacted by the stigmatization of menstrual health and to learn how it hinders girls’ education,” she writes.
“One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health.
“During my time in the field, many girls shared that they feel embarrassed to go to school during their periods, ill equipped with rags instead of pads, unable to participate in sports, and without bathrooms available to care for themselves, they often opt to drop out of school entirely.”
She also highlights the issues caused by the hush surrounding periods, including superstitions, confusion among girls as to what is happening to their bodies and the shame they feel as a result.
“All of these factors perpetuate the cycle of poverty and stunt a young girl’s dream for a more prolific future,” she adds.
She wraps up the piece urging people to push conversation about such issues, support menstrual health initiatives and mobilise policy.
“When we empower girls hungry for education, we cultivate women who are emboldened to effect change within their communities and globally,” she concludes.
“If that is our dream for them, then the promise of it must begin with us. Period.”
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