All over the world, women struggle to get the healthcare they need. Even in some of the world's leading countries, women still need to fight to have access to reproductive care. However, the battle is much greater in countries that are still developing.
Women are often shamed or left uneducated about the way their body truly works. Natural and healthy occurrences, such as periods, can leave women in some countries feeling uncomfortable in their own bodies. When they're not sure what to do, they may not seek the care they truly need.
To start making changes around the world, we need to take a moment and recognize what reproductive care looks like in other countries. Then, we can consider what we can do to help.
Reproductive Care Across the World
In developed countries, such as New Zealand and the United States, we are still not completely open to talking about reproductive health, periods and sex as women. While countries like these are much more open and accepting of the idea that women are sexual beings and that their bodies will bleed once a month, it can still be a bit of a taboo subject.
However, as we fight for gender equality, countries all over the world are facing larger, more difficult hurdles. While we are relatively advanced and moving in generally the right direction, other young girls are left feeling confused about their bodies doing the most basic and natural things. In some cases, it can even lead to suicide.
In India, menstruation is so taboo that a young girl was driven to jump off a building because she had a period blood stain on her uniform. After her teacher noticed the stain, she called her out. The harassment pushed this 12-year-old girl to end her life — all because her body was doing what it was designed to do.
In India, menstruation is seen as unclean and impure. When a woman has her period, she is limited in what she can do, what she can touch and where she can go. They are not allowed to touch certain foods or even prepare food for others. They may not even be allowed to go to the temple. This holds them back from living their daily lives.
However, India isn’t the only country where women are shamed for their periods. In Bolivia, girls are led to believe that period blood can cause cancer when mixed with trash. In Japan, women cannot be sushi chefs because it’s believed that menstruation may throw off their sense of taste. In many developing countries all around the world, including places like Cambodia and Kenya, access to any kind of sanitary napkin is considered a luxury.
How to Help
When we think about reproductive care access, we most often think about the resources available to us. It is easy to get caught up in our own day-to-day lives and forget that there are thousands of women all over the world still struggling to feel comfortable in their own bodies.
As we fight for our own reproductive rights and for access to the care we need, it is important to remember that many women around the world are still struggling more than we are. While we want to continue our own developments forward, we also want to consider what we can do to help those other women get the basic care they need.
Education is the first step in helping others. Staying aware of how other cultures perceive things like menstruation, sex, and reproduction is important. Ensuring women in foreign countries are adequately educated on women's reproductive biology is also important. However, knowing how to help fight those stereotypes and provide women with access to the products, education and resources they need is equally important.
There are dozens of programs out there that allow you to contribute to aiding in the fight for reproductive health around the world. For example, the Cambodia Charitable Trust combines health and education in a powerful combination. The Trust runs adolescent health programmes for boys and girls in secondary schools in Cambodia providing much needed education about puberty and lifestyle choices. It also distributes reusable cloth sanitary pads. Each pack of sanitary pads can last a girl up to three years and prevents them from missing school during their period. To take this one step further, the Cambodia Charitable Trust allows you to sponsor a young girl for a small monthly fee. With this money, you can help that young girl go to school.
Education and health provide empowerment, but they are also human rights. There is much work to do, but at least with organisations such as the Cambodia Charitable trust we know that we can support young girls in achieving both.