Menstruation, a subject that remains taboo at school

Menstruation, a subject that remains taboo at school

Despite progress made in recent years in terms of menstrual hygiene, such as taking into account the pain felt by women, certain taboos persist and are significant on the subject. This is particularly the case at school where periods are overwhelmingly perceived as a source of stress, even shame, as revealed by a survey presented on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl, October 11.

Whether due to a lack of suitable facilities or affordable products, or even the persistence of taboos surrounding dysmenorrhea, menstruation is still a source of school absenteeism around the world, and sometimes even dropping out of school. An issue raised in a report published in 2014 by UNESCO, which highlighted the impact of menstrual poverty and the lack of adequate equipment on the schooling of girls, particularly in India and in certain African countries. But everywhere in the world, young girls are faced with taboos and a lack of information on the subject, as revealed by a survey carried out by OpinionWay for Règles Élémentaires, made public on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl.

An impact on academic results

Conducted among more than 1,000 menstruating girls aged 11 to 18, the survey reveals that having your period at school or in class represents a source of stress for 80% of the young girls questioned. Note that 20% of them even believe that it is “a lot stressful”. This time of the month can have more serious consequences, since more than a third of respondents (36%) say they have already missed school because of their periods. A figure which rises to 51% among respondents aged 17 to 18. Among those who have already been absent because of their period, more than two thirds (68%) have already been absent several times a year.

Period-related pain appears to be the main factor in absenteeism, at 85%, compared to not being able to play sports or swim because of their periods (29%). To a lesser extent, those who have already been absent because of their period point to the fear of a task or of someone noticing the presence of periodic protection (7%), the lack of facilities and equipment at school (4%), the fear of not having time to change protection (3%), or even the absence of hygienic protection (2%). Still among those who missed school due to their periods, a quarter believe that this has had an impact on their academic progress.

Informed, but little supported

Nearly three-quarters of the girls surveyed (74%) say they were informed about periods during their schooling, a large proportion of whom were informed during SVT classes (55%) or from school nurses and doctors (32%). ). Among the respondents who claim to have received this information, more than eight in ten (86%) indicate that it mainly allowed them to better understand their body and how it works, while 59% believe that it helped them live their lives better. menstruation. More than eight out of ten respondents would like the subject to be covered at school during educational sessions, for both girls and boys.

Looking at certain figures, we see that despite everything, efforts still need to be made in terms of accessibility and management of menstrual hygiene at school. Only 36% of the young girls surveyed say they have access to free periodic protection within their school, including 10% who say they have it often. These menstrual hygiene products are primarily available in the infirmary (56%) and in dispensers installed in toilets (40%).

Through this survey we realize that periods are an integral part of the question of equality and that the generalization of menstrual education is a necessity today. We cannot accept that in Europe, in 2023, girls will have to miss school because they have their period. The solution is there, before our eyes, now we must apply it“, indicates the Règles Elémentaires association, in a press release. The latter requests in particular “the deconstruction of taboos linked to periods”, “recommendations for the use of periodic protection“, or even “a clear and pictorial definition of the physiology of periods”.