The focus for Environmenstrual Week 2022 is period shame: period poverty, reproductive health, continence and the shameful persistence of stigma and taboos around menstruation.
Wen wants to shine a light on the health of women, girls and those who menstruate and abolish the shame. The organisation aims to advocate for healthy, sustainable, safe and affordable period products for all.
Why can’t we talk about our periods?
Menstrual taboos and the stigma shaped by social, cultural and religious norms mean that periods are not openly discussed and are rarely celebrated. Even in 2022, menstruation is still surrounded by a shroud of secrecy and shame.
Our menstruating bodies and the period products we use are kept under wraps, sanitised and hidden from view. This leads to exclusion and discrimination and distances us from menstruation, a perfectly natural bodily function.
Period shame dictates which products we use as well as how we dispose of them. This has an impact on the health of women, girls and people who menstruate and has massive consequences for the environment and wildlife nationally and globally.
It also shapes the products mainstream manufacturers market to us. For example, the added synthetic fragrance used to overpower ‘menstrual odour’ and the needless and harmful added antimicrobials.
Brightly coloured wasteful plastic wrapping is deployed to help us hide period products, and the lighter plastic-filled pads to conceal neatly in our pants, so nobody knows we are on our period!
Flush it or bin it!
Period shame means that many of us feel we need to dispose of our period products down toilets, the so-called ‘flush and forget’ solution. It has been estimated that of the 4.3 billion menstrual products used each year in the UK, between 1.5–2 billion are flushed. That is about 35–47% of products. As well as blocking sewers, used period products make their way into waterways and the sea, polluting and harming wildlife.
But there is some good news!
In recent years, the surge in the use of reusable and organic single-use disposable products has led to a revolution in period product innovation and a huge increase in those switching to reusables, 18% of the market last year.
This brings big benefits for our health, wildlife and the environment. But we still need greater transparency and regulation for all period products.
Wen advocates for safer, affordable and sustainable period and continence products this Environmenstrual Week.