A 14-year-old Kenyan girl committed suicide last month because of ‘period shaming’ as her teacher scolded her and asked her to leave the classroom after the girl stained her uniform with menstrual blood.
There are girls all over the world who are facing menstrual issues every day. In Hong Kong, many of the girls had the experience of whispering in our friends’ ear to borrow a napkin; while in the developing countries, some girls cannot even afford a napkin.
Last month, I visited Ratanakiri in Cambodia, to investigate into girls’ issues in developing countries, like child marriage, child labour and menstrual problems which people have been avoiding talking about.
Naut studies extra hard to compensate for her absence due to mensuration. She hopes to finish high school and get out of poverty.
Dropping out Because of Menstruation
Nothing can stop 15 years old Naut Saki from learning, except… menstruation.
Once, she found her skirt soaked in blood during class. The terrified girl did not dare to leave her seat until everyone left school.
‘The boys will mock at me as they know nothing about menstruation!’ Naut said.
Since then, she skips school for a week every month. She can only afford the cheapest and the ‘thinnest’ napkin. The 10-piece napkins pack is not enough and it can barely absorb the large amount of blood. She is helpless.
‘I hate the latrine at school!’
‘There are holes on the wooden walls. Sometimes the boys stand there or knock on the door as it is a shared latrine. It is very embarrassing!’ Rann, 15, shared.
A group of schoolgirls drew me their ideal latrine. Strangely, they marked: one for teachers, one for boys, one for girls’ daily use and one for napkin changing because regular toilets are too dirty.
It is lucky that Naut and Rann can still stay in school. 17% of girls drop out before junior high in Cambodia. There are girls dropping out of school because of different girls’ issues every year and the menstrual problem is one of the reasons.
The girls draw out the ideal latrine they pictured. From the left, it is the room for teachers, boys, menstrual use and girls.
Break the Silence and Save the Girls from Blood
We have held back our voices for many years. How many girls lost their lives or left school because of menstruation issues in the years? We can wait no more!
We can spread the right messages about menstruation in our community, our family, and support the menstrual hygiene projects, such as educating the public on reproductive health and providing period-friendly latrines at schools in the developing countries.
Our brave Cambodian girls have broken the silence. Are you willing to give every girl a happy and worry-free period?