Menstruation occurs due to the burdens or stresses of daily life.
Periods result because of nature, or God’s will.
Menstrual blood is a result of good health. Women menstruate because of sugary drinks.
Women bleed because they are afraid of something.
These are sample responses given when our research teams asked Ethiopians – women, men, girls, and boys – why menstruation occurs in women. Nearly 20 percent of women and 15 percent of men surveyed said that they had no idea why women menstruate. Only 12 percent of women and 10 percent of men could give a biologically plausible reason for menstrual periods.
These questions were part of the first stage of a recently concluded research project conducted by the Menstrual Dignity Project, a collaboration of the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory, Mekelle University in Ethiopia, and Dignity Period. We talked to more than 400 people in the Tigray region about menstruation, its causes, and its impact on the capabilities and habits of women and girls.
The research will help us understand cultural beliefs and practices around menstruation in northern Ethiopia. In Amharic, menstruation is called yewor abeba, meaning “monthly flower,” a pretty metaphor for what is a natural, but poorly understood, occurrence in Ethiopia.
This lack of understanding about the biology of menstruation is a problem for girls in this region and across Ethiopia. If people do not understand what menstruation is and why girls get their periods, the door is wide open for damaging beliefs to affect their lives in profound ways.
Participants were also asked if menstruating girls could go to school, and nearly 22% of males and 11% of females said “No.” If we consider this in terms of potential parental influences, this may mean that as many as 1/3 of Ethiopian girls have a parent who believes she should stay home from school while menstruating. Extrapolated across the entire country, (population ~94.1 million in 2013), this would mean that 33 million mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters believe that girls should not be in class three to seven days a month. That is a lot of missed school and a tremendous amount of lost potential.
To read more of the results of our research, check out the full article.
Dignity Period is working hard to address these challenges and to educate boys and girls to ensure they know what a period is and why girls menstruate. We’re also helping girls manage menstruation through supplying free sanitary hygiene products from Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory. Research makes our work smarter and more effective so that more girls can stay focused on school, not their periods.
Together, education and menstrual hygiene supplies can make a difference in girls lives in Ethiopia.