This is the story of how an everyday issue disrupts Jhorna’s life, makes her feel dirty and unclean, and causes her to miss a few days of school every month.
Jhorna is 14 years old and lives with her parents, older brother (15) and two younger sisters (12 and 8) in a one room hut in a ‘refugee’ colony in Bangladesh. Her father is a rickshaw driver.
Every month, Jhorna misses 4 or 5 days of school. She also avoids going out of the hut and being near her father and brother. Jhorna was never taught about menstruation. She believes she is ‘unclean’ during those days and that she should avoid other people, especially men. When she had her first period, Jhorna was terrified, thinking she was very ill and about to die. Her mother explained that it’s something that happens once a month, and showed her how to use old rags and cloths.
77% of women and girls in Bangladesh do not use appropriate menstrual hygiene products. (World Bank, 2019)
Another study in 2018 found that 64% of women and girls have no knowledge of menstruation before their first period.
The majority of women and girls in Bangladesh cannot afford menstrual hygiene products. As a result they use rags, old cloths and even leaves, which can lead to urogenital infections and illness. They also often suffer emotional and mental trauma and distress due to taboos and stigma, myths and misinformation, surrounding menstruation.
Improving Menstrual Health in Poor Communities
We provide women and girls from impoverished families with two packs of reusable sanitary pads, enough to last them one year, along with instructions on their proper care and use.
We also conduct menstrual hygiene awareness sessions where girls and women learn more about issues surround mentrual health, dispelling myths and misconceptions, enabling them to better maintain their health.
The reusable sanitary pads are manufactured from natural products locally, helping local businesses and their employees. They also help the environment by reducing waste.
Dignity Boxes in Schools
Our Dignity Boxes, containing reusable sanitary pads and other hygiene products, are placed in High Schools where girls can access them when needed. They are provided free of charge, but those who are able to do so are encouraged to contribute towards the cost.
Girls who would normally stay away from school for 3-5 days each month because they did not have access to proper hygiene products, now have the confidence to attend school and not miss classes.