It’s #JustaTampon. Period.

November 1, 2015

A social media campaign calls men and women to shatter stigma surrounding feminine hygiene

 

Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition of a tampon is “a piece of soft material (such as cotton) that is placed in the vagina to absorb the blood that occurs during menstruation.” On balance, a tampon is not really that different from its cotton cousins, the Q-tip, or the tissue. It’s just a piece of cotton designed to assist with a normal, healthy, regular bodily function. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

And yet, in many social settings and countries, mere mention of the word (let alone reference to a woman’s menstrual cycle) sparks hysteria. Such stigma around menstruation undermines girls’ and women’s ability to be healthy and empowered. According to Plan International, more than 800 million women between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating. Only 12 percent have access to sanitary products. Instead, they must rely on materials like rags, dirt, newspapers, leaves, bark or other unhygienic materials to absorb their menstrual flow, which can lead to infection.

Women and girls without access to tampons or sanitary pads not only face health challenges; a lack of access to sanitary care can keep them from going to school, which can impede their intellectual and social development and undermines their socioeconomic status. The majority of girls without access to affordable, hygienic menstrual products as well as clean, safe, private toilets with water and a way to dispose of used menstrual products miss between one and five days of school during each menstruation period. These gaps in attendance can lead to lower grades, and ultimately, a girl dropping out of school.

“…a lack of access to sanitary care can keep them (women and girls) from going to school, which can impede their intellectual and social development and undermines their socioeconomic status.”

In an attempt to break the stigma around feminine hygiene products, Plan UK, an international charity launched the #JustaTampon social media campaign with V.Point, a London-based news site.

 

The #JustaTampon campaign serves as a launch pad (pun intended) for positive dialogue around menstrual cycles and the associated products women and girls use. The campaign features photos of all genders posing with sanitary products to raise awareness of global gender inequities—and the fact that menstruating women and girls face stigma and discrimination not afforded to men. Since its launch, Facebook and Twitter have been flooded with “tampon-selfies”—self-portraits showing sanitary products dangling from people’s ears, protruding from their mouths—even inserted in their noses. The campaign’s donation mechanism (texting “TAMPON” to 70007) allows supporters to donate to Plan UK. Beyond connecting women and girls with female sanitation products, the funds have been used to tackle discrimination faced broadly by girls as well as to address issues such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. And, of course, to connect women and girls with female sanitation products.

 

Recognition of this problem and support from organizations like Johnson and Johnson and Plan helps women and girls from a wide range of environments – from school girls in rural Kenya to girls and women fleeing political turmoil in neighbouring Burundi. In Uganda, girls and women are making their own recyclable sanitary towels. India has installed vending machines for sanitary products.

 

It is amazing how a little piece of cotton can change the world when we change our orientation to it.

 

To get involved: #JustaTampon.