For billions of young people worldwide, menstruation is a monthly reality. Yet in many countries, they still face serious challenges when it comes to managing their periods.

Myths, stigma and harmful gender norms around menstruation exacerbate the difficulties for young people across the world.

Zarinah, 15, with one of the reusable sanitary pads she has made.

How does menstruation affect lives?

  • Education: Young people may miss school during their periods due to lack of facilities or necessary supplies
  • Economics: They may miss work if they don’t have access to the supplies or facilities they need.
  • Health: Use of improvised menstrual health materials can lead to illness
  • Dignity: They may suffer from discomfort, endure teasing and shaming or face exclusion from everyday activities
  • Participation: They may be distracted or less productive during school and other activities due to pain, discomfort or fear of leaks.

Pictured: Zarinah, 15, from Uganda with one of the reusable sanitary pads she has made. Photo credit: Plan International.

How can periods affect young people?

If not properly managed, menstruation can interrupt daily life. Adolescents especially experience extremely painful periods which can affect their attendance and performance at school. A lack of adequate facilities and materials, restrictions on girls’ movements during their period and feeling ashamed or ‘unclean’ also contribute to girls skipping school.

Taboos, myths and shame surrounding menstruation can lead to teasing, shaming and exclusion from daily activities and have a negative effect on girls’ feelings of dignity.

Periods don’t stop during emergencies

Girls’ ability to manage their menstrual health is worsening due to the hunger crisis.

Sofiana, 13, from Haiti and Hamda, 15, from Somalia share their stories.

Why are people who menstruate discriminated against?

Period-shame is rooted in gender inequality. Cultural and religious traditions around periods are often derived from discriminatory, patriarchal norms about a girl’s status and place in society.

As a result, girls and women are often expected to refrain from normal activities, such as bathing or cooking and may even be banished from the home during their period. These restrictions and negative attitudes towards menstruation affect girls’ self-esteem.

Busting Period Taboos in Bangladesh

Lucky was married at 14. Now she is empowering girls to stay in school and become financially empowered – all while busting menstruation taboos!

What is Plan International doing to support menstrual health management?

Together with local governments and schools we are training district health workers, teachers and volunteers to educate young people about periods and talk about them in a shame-free way. 

We also distribute menstrual health materials in schools and teach girls how to manage their periods so they feel confident and stay in school.

What are the benefits of a period-shame-free society?

By improving menstrual health and tackling period-shame we can improve girls’ attendance and performance at school; break down taboos and misconceptions around menstruation; raise girls’ self-esteem and enable girls to fully participate in all aspects of society.