Go With The Flow

Menstruation at Schools: Breaking Taboos

Menstruation is something that over half of the world’s population goes through. But why is it that our children are still struggling to speak up about menstruation? Where is it that we, the predecessors, go wrong in teaching our children and the next generation?

Malikah Kazi, a 19-year-old college student pursuing B. Sc IT in Mumbai, shares her experience that when she first got her periods, it took her two weeks to open up to her mother.

Before she even knew that periods are something that every woman goes through and relates to, she somehow came to the conclusion that menstruation is something shameful and should be hidden. Why is a normal anatomical process termed impure?

Yes, there has been considerable progress in promoting feminine hygiene in school settings in the past decade. Further down her testimony, Malikah also shares that her school installed a sanitary pad vending machine in the year 2016. But she concludes her testimony by stating that even with all the progress and initiatives, it is still difficult to change the conservative mindset and social-cultural taboos on menstruation that are still practiced in society.

Sadly enough, Malikah's assertion is correct. You can’t change everyone, especially not in a country like India where still many prioritize social, cultural, and political norms over new and progressive ideas. But we can change the future generation’s outlook on menstruation, can we not? And where will we start? At the temple of knowledge and the miniature of society – school.

Addressing Menstruation in Schools

Even today, the preferred source of information for children is still books, along with the internet. But the sad part is that our schoolbooks still do not give as much emphasis to this topic as it deserves. The topic of menstruation finds itself a simple mention in a small paragraph, without any mention of its social, economic, and health implications. Boys may learn the names of all the hormones involved in the menstrual cycle for their short notes but may still fail to grasp that menstruation is something that their mother, sisters, and friends go through.

There is also not a single mention of how the myths and taboos surrounding menstruation strangle the menstruating population, or on how these curses can be uprooted and thrown away for good. Does our educational system believe that it is too soon to teach young minds about the social stigma surrounding menstruation? Even when they’ve already had first-hand experiences of this stigma?

Our textbooks are shying away from the responsibility of educating young minds about a very important topic such as menstruation. To make up for the failure of our textbooks, teachers and educators should take matters into their hands to teach and discuss the process of period cycle and menstruation and the breaking of the stereotypical mindset that surrounds it. Boys should be included in this conversation too as the very thought of menstruation being an embarrassing topic for boys is paving way for a lack of understanding and empathy towards women's experiences and needs.

Period poverty in schools

With a surprising lack of spotlight and empathy towards women’s needs and issues, period poverty in schools isn’t very unexpected. Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstruation products such as period pads, sanitation facilities, and menstrual health education and hygiene.

Period poverty is often linked to broader issues such as poverty, gender inequality, and discrimination. It can disproportionately affect marginalized groups such as low-income families, those experiencing homelessness or unstable housing.

This leads to the children missing schools during their periods, and feeling embarrassed and ashamed of themselves which can affect their academic performance, mental health, and overall well-being. They experience complete helplessness towards menstruation at a very young age, and with no one to guide them, they begin to fear and hate menstruation, or worse, hate themselves and their body.

To address period poverty in schools, there have been various initiatives and efforts by governments, non-governmental organizations, and schools themselves. There are efforts being made to provide free menstrual products in schools through the installation of sanitary napkin vending machines, and to create safe and private spaces to girls for managing menstruation. Efforts are also being made to provide storage space for the sanitary products and eco-friendly incinerators for safe disposal of sanitary products.

In the year 2017, Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of Kerala, launched the ‘She Pad’ scheme for schoolgirls that makes it mandatory for all higher secondary schools in Kerala to have sanitary napkin vending machines that distribute free sanitary napkins to girl students.

We can hope that soon enough, the rest of the states too will follow Kerala’s lead and implement similar programs to address period poverty.


It is true that the journey towards breaking taboos surrounding menstruation is a challenging one, but it’s definitely not impossible. It starts with acknowledging the problem and taking steps toward change. While it may be difficult to change everyone's mindset, we can work towards creating a better future generation by starting at the very core of society - schools. Educating children and breaking the stereotypical mindset surrounding menstruation will not only help them understand their own bodies but also promote empathy and understanding towards women's experiences.

We can also look to the successful initiatives and schemes, such as the 'She Pad' scheme in Kerala, and hope that more states will follow suit. With continued efforts and education, we can create a future where menstruation is no longer a taboo, and every student has access to the menstrual products and support they need to thrive.


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