Why We Do It

Myanmar women's 'vicious menstrual cycle':

1. The taboo causes misinformation

  • Only a minority of girls & boys learn about reproduction and the menstrual cycle at school.
  • It is considered inappropriate to ask questions related to reproductive health. 
  • As a result, very few Myanmar people have a correct understanding about menstruation and how to be healthy and hygienic when menstruating.  

2. Which leads to unhealthy practices

  • Most girls wear their pads for too long and up to a quarter of girls suffer from urinary track infection at a given time.
  • Poor pain management leads some girls to miss one or two days of school every month.
  • Harmful myths are common: bathing too much is believed to be dangerous, being active during menstruation is also deemed risky.

3. And feeds the belief that menstruation is dirty

  • Menstruation is widely misunderstood as a purification process, implying that it is dirty. 
  • Nearly 80% of rural girls feel ashamed when their first menstruation arrive
  • Even in urban areas, 83% of young women believe menstruation is dirty.
  • Girls’ self-esteem & confidence are damaged by the brief that their bodies are dirty

4. Which creates a stigma around menstruation

  • Girls are pressured to hide their menstruation, which leads to stress and anxiety. 
  • During these few days a months, shame is central to their life and to their decision-making. Their participation and attention at school drops, because they are worried and insecure.
  • The priority being to hide they status, they often adopt unhealthy behaviours such as not changing pads as often as know they should. 

5. And contributes to women's lower status

  • From reaching menarche, Myanmar society sends a strong message to girls: their bodily functions are impure and make them spiritually and socially inferior to men.  
  • Their self-esteem and confidence will never be the same.
  • Their identity is permanently damaged.
  • Their social status is explicitly inferior.

Sources:

  • Burnet Institute’s Adolescent Reproductive Health in Myanmar formative study (FOD & surveys) with 765 rural adolescent girls, January 2018
  • Knowledge & Attitudes survey with 200 young women in Yangon, Pan Ka Lay & Kantar Public, 2019
  • Pan Ka Lay’s own 21 focus groups and 36 in-depth individual interviews with girls, young women, and young men, October 2017 to February 2019, Kantar Public and Pan Ka Lay
  • SPRING Accelerator’s Girl Landscaping research: FGDs with 190 girls and 72 parents if girls, Kantar Public, February 2018