This morning I read this article: Half the World Menstruates. Now, Let’s Talk About It and I want to talk about it. A few days ago I opened the bathroom cupboard to grab a new roll of toilet paper and saw this:
I flew to Oregon two+ months ago for a complete hysterectomy. Just back home last week, I’m still getting used to the fact that I don’t need this stuff anymore. I’ve navigated a really rocky reproductive road. And come to the end. It’s been tough work, but I’ve not taken for granted this truth of my experience: I was born into privilege and access. As rotten as I often felt, as scary or hopeless as my stories turned, I always had access to excellent medical care and resources to pay for it.
In 2010 I took my first trip to Zambia with WaterAfrica to learn about the development work World Vision is doing with Water, Sanitation & Hygiene in rural villages there. How appropriate that my own menstruation cycle would coincide with that trip, giving me a tiny experiential glimpse into WASH issues for women.
From the time I started menstruating, way back in middle school, the first few days of my bleeding cycle were usually heavy (and before I had babies – nauseatingly crampy). Access to a bathroom (and a heating pad + ibuprofen) mattered. In rural Zambia, it was complicated to find access to a bathroom.
One afternoon we visited a community that was using facilities which had been long abandoned by whatever institution originally installed them. That was the day I accidentally locked myself in here:
I’d just managed the tampon swap (while keeping my backpack and camera bag from touching anything around me! yikes!!) and tried to go out in the hallway to scoop some water from a bucket in order to flush my toilet. Whoops! I was locked in this stall!!! My travel team had continued on our walking tour. I can’t remember exactly how I escaped this scene. I believe I yanked on the door and eventually the lock gave way. I do remember thinking through a lot of really nasty possible solutions in my panic. Thankfully, this story ended without public embarrassment, but I was rattled! What miserable luck to be a menstruating woman in this place.
AND I had tampons. I understood that the germs surrounding me in that stall threatened my health. I had a bottle of Purell to scrub my hands with when I escaped from my mini-nightmare.
I don’t know. Drilling for clean water is the sexy story. The one people like to talk about. And for good reason, it’s a fantastic story. One I’m always happy to tell.
But this #menstruationmatters conversation is so important too! It’s part of the Sanitation & Hygiene component in a good WASH program. I wrote about its impact on education when I came back from my second trip to Zambia.
Click the thumbnail to look at this infographic from menstrualhygieneday.org and please join me in talking #menstruationmatters as we work to bring awareness and access to safe and healthy period management for all women.