Nobody thought to tell me about periods. Not my teacher. My mother. My grandmother. Nobody.
This wasn’t through ignorance, nor neglect, it just wasn’t the done thing growing up in the ‘closed city’ of Gorky, now Nizhny Novgorod, within the old Soviet Union. Is it the done thing now around the world? Absolutely not.
Today, we live in a society in which menstruation, and women’s health as a whole, is a blacklisted taboo shrouded in a cloud of ill-informed pre-conception and murky judgement. As if it were the plague or ‘he who must not be named’, we as a collective often shy away from discussing the topic of menstruation and reproductive health – two perfectly natural bodily functions for every single female around the world.
Growing up, I was completely unaware of what was happening to my body, which at times was utterly petrifying. So many young females today are let down by the lack of education on this topic, so much so that it transcends beyond simply health. It moves into financial prosperity, sporting potential and social integration. In India, ten per cent of girls drop out of school to avoid their periods and globally, around 500 million women and girls lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. In fact, sexual and reproductive health is a leading cause of death and disability for women in the developing world.
I first discovered that others were in exactly the same boat as I was growing up when I became involved in FLO, one of the largest female health apps. The community within the app was asking all the same questions.
Whether it be period poverty or lack of education on the correct ways to maintain health, there is a clear issue which can no longer be shoved under the carpet.
Today, we have the resources at hand to make whatever we desire a global talking point at the click of a button. So the question must be asked… do we choose to continue struggling with the cultural taboo of menstrual hygiene and women’s health in general? Or, the truth is, we are living in fear, trapped in a mindset of conformity with regards to what we believe to be acceptable topics of discussion. The only way for us to tackle the taboo and reduce the harrowing statistics is to initiate a conversation – and you’re all invited to join.
We must tackle the taboo head on and bring the issue to the forefront of the global agenda by discovering viable and sustainable solutions to the crisis we face. Every female should have the basic human right to health, and nobody should feel marginalised and isolated in fear of sharing their issues. As a child growing up, I felt like I couldn’t speak to the people around me. The thought of current and future generations feeling ashamed and unaware of something so natural is extremely upsetting, which is why I am so passionate about taking a stand to change this.
It’s time to bite the bullet. It’s time to drop our inhibitions and become a free-thinking society that feels comfortable discussing women’s health.
With discussion comes awareness, with awareness comes change, and change creates tomorrow’s innovation to bring tomorrow a day forward.
Want to join the conversation? The 2018 “Let’s Talk!” event will convene thought leaders, influencers, activists and global policymakers who are challenging women’s health taboos with the goal of galvanizing further progress on women’s health and gender equality.
The two-day event is powered by the charitable giving platform ELBI and will run in partnership with UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. The event will comprise a Davos-style forum with high profile speakers and an awards ceremony to recognise the outstanding endeavours of change makers fighting globally for women’s health, choices and rights.
ELBI co-founder, philanthropist, campaigner & model Natalia Vodianova will host the event and bring together a number of special guests on 25th-26th October 2018 at the Maxx Royal Resorts Kemer in Antalya, Turkey.