Menstruation tortures underprivileged girls

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 girls have had the experience of whispering in our friends’ ear to borrow a napkin; while in developing countries, some girls cannot even afford a napkin.

Last month, I visited Ratanakiri in Cambodia to investigate girls’ issues in developing countries, like child marriage, child labour and menstrual problems which people have been avoiding talking about.

Nothing can stop 15-year-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 had left school.

“The boys will mock me as they know nothing about menstruation!” Naut said.

Since then, she has skipped school for a week every month. She can only afford the cheapest and the “thinnest” napkin. The 10-piece napkin pack is not enough and it can barely absorb a large amount of blood. She is helpless.

” I hate the latrine at school!” Rann, 15, shared, “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!” 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.

We have held back our voices for many years. How many girls have lost their lives or left school because of menstruation issues over 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 developing countries.

Our brave Cambodian girls have broken their silence. Are you willing to give every girl a happy and worry-free period?

Naut Saki

Photo: Tsang Wing-kai

*This article was published on 25 Oct 2019 in Ming Pao: