Health, Hygiene and the Menstrual Taboo

The Centre of Business and Society, at the Suleman Dawood School of Business, LUMS organised its second edutainment event titled ‘It’s Everyone’s Business, Period. Health, Hygiene and the Menstrual Taboo’. The event successfully brought forth a positive and constructive dialogue on menstrual health management issues along with the social and economic considerations of period poverty.

Health, Hygiene and the Menstrual Taboo

The event premised around the issue of period poverty, which relates to the lack of access to sanitary products, washing facilities, dignity, and information about menstruation; an issue that posesa major setback for any economy due to its impact on health, education, the economy and the economic empowerment of women and the global stature of a country.  At least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Promoting menstrual hygiene management is not only a sanitation matter; it is also an important step towards safeguarding the dignity, bodily integrity and overall life opportunities of women and girls. Often, the hidden costs of period poverty include extreme mental health problems amongst females; which only deepens the taboo they are confronted with.

The Centre of Business and Society has been founded to address such issues heads-on. It recognizes that in many parts of the country, women are considered impure while menstruating and are often excluded from the community. Cultural stigma, lack of knowledge and a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products often force girls to stay home, skip days of school, or drop out altogether. The social and economic patterns that emerge from compromised education affects not just young girls but the whole community.

CBS’ edutainment event ‘Its Everyone’s Business, Period. Health, Hygiene and the Menstrual Taboo’ sparkeda thought-provoking narrative on these pertinent issues related to period poverty. The speakers of the event included Farah Ahamed, Feryal Ali Gauhar and Baela Raza Jamil who set the stage for a meaningful panel discussion through their insightful speeches. The panelists for the panel session included young entrepreneurs from ReCircle, Femkins, HerGround and Girlythings, along with Mira Hashmi from the Lahore School of Economics and renowned activist, Jalvat Ali, from the Labour Education Foundation. The panel session was moderated by Dr. Ayesha Masood who is an Assistant professor at SDSB.

The edutainment event commenced with the Honorary Dean of SDSB, Dr. Alnoor Bhimani, briefly introducing the issue of period poverty and how it gravely impacts the success of a nation. Each of the three speakers briefly shared their experiences of working with women facing a range of issues stemming from period poverty. The panel discussion ensued shortly afterwards. The panel discussion detailed a wide range of topics regarding the stigma around the menstrual cycle as well as discussing the issues faced by women when they come of age. It ensued an invigorating discussion amongst the panelists with occasional contributions and questions from the audience. The event concluded with a remarkable performance by Sur Mandal artists: Ustad Habib u Rehman, Rainy Carol and Sumaira Waris – who is the first and only female table player in Pakistan.

In the recent past, the importance of menstruation hygiene has been increasingly highlighted and addressed in the global development landscape. In fact, after a yearlong campaign, GST on sanitary napkins was finally abolished in India in July 2018. The issue of MHM has now become so important that 28 May is allotted as World Menstrual Hygiene day; which is an annual global event to raise awareness about the challenges women and girls face due to menstruation and provides a platform to highlight solutions that address these challenges. The speakers, panelists and audience at CBS’ event were grateful to the efforts of CBS and SDSB for shedding light on a very important issue. CBS hopes to continue a meaningful conversation in this space through many more engaging and edu-taining events in the future!