Menstruation is a natural event for all women of reproductive age. For most women it occurs once a month. Each month the womb develops a special lining that can protect and feed a fertilised egg as it develops into a baby. If a woman is not pregnant, this lining is no longer needed and is lost from the body. Menstruation shows that a woman is healthy and fertile.

Unfortunately all kinds of beliefs and taboos have developed around menstruation. In many cultures women are thought to be unclean during menstruation. Women have different ways of dealing with the menstrual flow, which is rich in blood, to avoid staining their clothes. Disposable sanitary towels are widely available but many women cannot afford to use these. Instead they use rags made from old clothing.

Because of the shame often associated with monthly bleeding, women may wash and dry these rags indoors, hidden away in dark and sometimes damp conditions. This means the rags may become covered with insects and full of microbes. Infections and soreness often result. Rags should be washed in safe water using plenty of soap, dried in full sun and stored in plastic bags when dry. Women should also wash themselves well each day.

  • What terms are used in our culture for menstruation?
  • What traditional beliefs does our culture have about menstruation? Are these helpful or harmful?
  • Are girls and young women in our community encouraged to take pride in the normal working of their bodies? How are they made to feel ashamed?
  • Where can women discuss these issues openly? Where can they ask for medical advice without feeling ashamed?
  • How can men become more understanding of the needs of women?
  • How could women’s need for private washing and drying areas be met in our community?