Happy Flow Moday - What can men do to end menstrual stigma?

For this week's #HappyFlow Monday, we asked some of our network members what they thought men can do in order to end menstrual stigma.

Michael Kehongoh Marwa - Tanzania

Men and Boys should be advocates on breaking the taboos on menstruation and spearhead discussions in public and in families so as to normalise it.

Men and boys should provide psychological support  to women and girls during menstruation. This will to addres the shame, stigma and misinformation on menstruation.

Ashwell Forbes - Namibia

We as men need to start having the open discussion on menstruation.  The time has come for males to be part in restoring the dignity of young woman and females in general. The discussion on menstruation can no longer be considered as a taboo, the discussion should change from “it’s a female problem to a discussion of human dignity” - its a discussion of female pride, menstruation is a pride of woman that gives human life.

Man should get comfortable talking about menstruation with men and women as it is typically  a topic that is only discussed behind closed doors And looked as a taboo.

Let’s restore dignity, it’s a collective effort to change

Daniel Nii Addotei - Ghana

EVERY PERIOD COUNTS! I believe just like men are expected to feel normal about early morning erections, menstruation should be accepted as a normal cycle among women.

We need to kick out Stigma attached to menstruation by:

1. Being open minded, audible enough and not consider it as a taboo.

2. Educating young men in school about the menstrual cycle to appreciate it as a natural occurrence.

3. Supporting women with menstrual products.

Romeo Irankunda - Burundi

Menstruation is often cloaked in stigma, shame and misinformation in African cultures. The stigma over periods won’t end until men learn about them too, and therefore know that it’s a human body’s normal function (Physiology) and they will accept women when menstruating.

Starting in primary school, boys should be taught about periods (the pain, stress, mood swings and hormones). Indirectly, periods will affect them too, and, for too long have been stigmatised.

If men don’t know about periods, how can they take period poverty or the tampon tax seriously, or even sympathise with someone in pain once a month. The taboo or stigma  around periods is a form of misogyny, emblematic of the broader subordination of women. Not to speak of our rules to boys and men means a discreet enslavement, allowing the existence of separate and differentiated spheres according to sex, which validates the idea that all that is outside the experience of cisgender men is unnatural.

#Expectrespect #SRHR

John Otieno - Kenya

Ever shed tears for the things you believe had space only in the dark days of the past and should be deprived of the light of the modern day? That's the situation I, as a man, find myself in everytime I hear of this monster in the name of menstrual stigma. This, for quite a lengthy time now, has heightened my passion and prickled my curiosity to unravel the position and the role that can be played by men who sadly are the perpetrators of this conduct unbecoming.

You will agree with me that among other bottlenecks, stigma is one of the top challenges bedevilling the advocacy campaign process for universal menstrual hygiene and sanitation among women. Therefore, ending stigma is the surest path to eternal success on this great initiative.

Now, to understand men's role, it's imperative to understand that menstruation is part of the natural and biological interior design process for mankind and therefore any form of stigma catapulted at it is just but a whispered story we can end if we as the men folk embrace our women by speaking against it with uniform fire all over our eyes and conviction in our voices. As perpetrators, men must occupy the front seats in every actions geared towards ending menstrual stigma within our communities as this will neutralize the evil perception by other uninformed men. They must, at all levels, be involved in the campaigns to create awareness and conducive atmosphere to our women to adequately and freely respond to this ‘call of nature’. This can be achieved by incooperating them in every service delivery; education, advocacy,  etc etc.

Again, as stigma always comes with inadequate information or lack of it and unethical conduct towards the victims, men  need to train to ethically handle girls who are on their periods since they have them in their places of work or residence. Every man must have at one point or countless times touched base with a sister, girlfriend, relative, workmate or any other female friend  menstruating. I've always enjoyed discussing matters menstruation with my girlfriend and she will endorse this that I've always offered her the much needed support not only materially but also information wise since she trust me as a reproductive health expert. This therefore speaks the importance of having men trained to train other men to accord women dignity, comfort, support, and much needed space without any controversy.

As we make it clear that periods are nothing to be ashamed of, men must be publicly involved  in availing menstrual products so as to signal all people from all quarters that it is normal, natural, and a bodily function that is beyond our grasp to make choice whether, where, and when to have it. This will be eye and sense-opening to all.

Now, what if men become comfortable discussing menstruation hygiene as a basic human right? Will this thwart stigma-related efforts to curtail the campaign? Let's give it a shot and see what it brings.

While it is common knowledge and understanding that we all came from women, it will be equally fair to make those who hold contrary opinion to this fact of life to recognise that the same women we stigmatise for their natural portion are the very same people that gave birth to us. Men are from women and at no given time should the narrative change for whatever intention.

I am utterly convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that if men are allowed to do some activities like pad tests, then this high-pitched monster in the name of menstrual stigma will be as good as subdued.

Finally, men must promote positive and taboo-free conversation about periods. They should stand tall and condemn in the strongest terms available any retrogressive cultural practice that tends to demean or mudslinging menstruating women.

I believe if men takes a positive view of the above, then menstrual stigma is an inch to its grave.

Paul Wasswa - Uganda

As a man, I call upon fellow men to engage with adolescent girls and women so as to understand what menstruation is and the challenges girls and women face during this time and so that we can understand and address these challenges. We should advocate for access to cheap quality sanitary pads for Adolescent girls and women to enable them attend to other activities while undergoing their periods and educate fellow men on menstrual health, Hygiene and management.

James Namalira - Malawi

Men should be in the shoes of women by providing menstrual kits the same way they provide condoms hence breaking stigma.

Menstruation is a normal biological process for women and men should respect and support with necessary resources for a happy flow.

Stephen Kangwa Chilobwa - Zambia

Menstruation is a shared experience among all females — females everywhere understand what it is like to get her first period, and most females experience the same symptoms. And yet, menstruation is also a widely stigmatized issue. It is a topic that people are usually uncomfortable talking about and is typically a topic that is only discussed behind closed doors.

If we genuinely want to see menstruation become less taboo, it will be critical to have men understand . Our society must be willing to discuss menstruation with boys and men, We've got to normalize periods as early on as possible. Starting in primary school, boys should be taught about periods. Currently limited to the biological intricacies of the menstrual cycle, the school curriculum must extend to acknowledge the everyday implications of periods. Boys need to be taught about the pain, stress, mood swings and hormones. The sudden bloating, chocolate binges and inexplicable tears. Indirectly, periods will affect them too, and, for too long we’ve been left out of the conversation.

Encouraging the next generation to view periods as a natural physical process, rather than a source of shame and embarrassment, is vital to build a more equal society. If men don’t know about periods, how can they take  period poverty or the sanitary tax seriously, or even sympathise with someone in pain once a month? The taboo around periods is a form of misogyny, emblematic of the broader subordination of women. Not talking to boys and men about menstruation means a quiet subservience, allowing separate, gendered spheres to exist, which validates the idea that anything outside the cis-male experience is abnormal. We need to address  the significant lack of health education resources available to people about the menstrual cycle. It is this lack of knowledge that fuels myths which ostracize and humiliate women during their monthly cycles. Women, we've been taught to be ashamed of their periods and to keep that part of their  womanhood a dirty little secret. Erasing the stigma of menstruation  isn't something that can happen overnight, but the first step is, on an individual level, re-framing how we view women's bodies and periods. And women too need to refrain how they view the bodies and periods.

For people who menstruate, how do we take back 25 percent of our lives? Why should we dread one week out of every month? How do we instead learn to embrace every part of ourselves, including our menstruation? That is a tough nut to crack, but we fundamentally believe that by creating better options of period products... periods can become a part of ourselves that we celebrate rather than fear, shame, dread or hide.

The only way to make a serious change in society is to get comfortable discussing things that are considered taboo. Ultimately, menstruation is a reminder of women's incredible ability to literally bring life into the world — even though it's a little bloody, there's nothing gross about that. Men lets put the Men in menstruation it is not only a woman's issue.

Nyararai Magudu - Mozambique

When men and boys are involved in menstrual hygiene the world becomes a better place for all humanity. Men and boys lack appropriate and adequate information about the subject yet they are the breadwinners. Menstrual hygiene is not a women issue; instead it is a human rights issue. Engaging men and boys will help to break the social taboos, avail resources and policy shift.

Have you signed the petition for free sanitary wear for all who need it? If not, sign it here!