For hundreds of years, women and girls have been told ridiculous stories about the dangerous super powers they possess when they menstruate. But having a period is a very normal and healthy part of our lives. Despite this, menstruation remains a taboo topic in many settings, and the silence can be damaging.
What you don't know CAN hurt you.
In a recent study involving nearly 100,000 girls in India, almost 50,000 did not know about menstruation until the first time they got their period. Many girls think that they are dying or have a horrible disease the first time they menstruate, as the pain and blood cause confusion and worry.
Some girls are told they cannot participate in certain activities, and others are banished to sleep outside because of these damaging myths. Today, we're busting some of these crazy myths and getting the truth out there.
Walking behind someone who has their period might cause your teeth to break.
Not sure where this one came from. In some places in Malawi, people believe that if you are walking behind someone menstruating, there are pretty catastrophic dental consequences.
Showering when you have your period can stop you from having children.
In Afghanistan, some women are told that washing their genitals when they are menstruating can cause infertility.
If you touch a pickle when you have your period, you'll make it go rotten.
In different countries around the world, it is believed that women who menstruate have the power to poison or spoil food.
If you swim when you have your period, sharks will attack you.
If you swim in shark-infested waters, you're going to be at risk of a bite from our grey-finned friends — but that risk doesn't increase when you have your period.
Menstruation is dirty. Girls and women who have their period should be isolated.
Menstruation is a very healthy and normal part of life, but in some places, women are forced to sleep outside or banished to huts to keep them apart from other people and livestock. In Nepal, this practice is known as chaupadi.
When girls are close, they can "sync up" and have their period at the same time.
Some research indicates it is true, but other research shows that is not the case. As a sister and female flatmate, I can vouch that synchronized periods do happen, but I would struggle to show you the proof.
Menstrual blood can kill.
In some communities in Burundi, it is thought that contact with a woman who has her period can be deadly for family members.
Girls are weaker when they menstruate.
Women and girls around the world prove this myth wrong every single day. Girls are doing incredible things — even when they don't have a toilet, or sanitary products, to help them manage their period.
You can actually consume more chocolate when you have your period, without taking in any calories.
This is actually a myth that we'd really like to think is true — so we're going to just go ahead and say "unclear." Next...
I can play an important role in breaking the damaging silence around periods.
Whether you get your period or not, you can play an important role in breaking the negative taboo associated with menstruation. Strike up a conversation, share a story, ask a question or simply just put it out there — #MenstruationMatters!
Philippa Lysaght represents water, sanitation and hygiene in UNICEF's public advocacy team.
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