A staggering nine out of 10 girls are worried about going to school when they have their period, a UK study has found. The YouGov research stated that period shaming was a major contributing factor in the hesitation girls felt going to school during their time of the month.
The study also found that over a quarter of girls had missed school at least once because of their period. Reasons ranged from shaming, teasing and boys knowing to the fear of leaking and not being allowed to go to the toilet. Nearly half of all girls reported having been teased at school due to their period.
Bodyform’s ‘Fear Going To School Less’ report also found that boys aren’t learning enough about periods at school, with most not understanding basic period facts. 94 per cent of boys said they didn’t know a lot about periods – 42 percent said they found periods awkward, and 38 per cent said they found them embarrassing.
The study polled over 1000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 in UK schools.
“Our report indicates a worrying problem regarding a lack of knowledge around periods from boys and a gap in education, resulting in girls fearing going to school while on their period,” said Traci Baxter of Bodyform. “While period poverty remains a significant issue, our report shows that economic factors are not the only reason girls stay away from school, with shame and fear of embarrassment affecting girls across the social spectrum and the country.”
The report also found a need for more education for girls and boys around periods, with 31 per cent of all children, and 48 per cent of boys saying school was their main source of education about menstruation.
Twenty per cent of boys admitted they didn’t know the basic facts about periods, including whether girls can hold periods “like wee” or whether it’s safe to exercise while menstruating. And 72 per cent of boys said they’ve never been specifically educated about periods at school.
Bodyform is lobbying schools to take a more active role in educating children and normalise menstruation. “We have pledged to work collaboratively with high schools to look at how they can create more engaging lessons, and to teach boys and girls together to create a positive, informed conversation,” said Traci Baxter.
Bodyform is launching a pilot program in the UK in early 2019, working with schools to provide resources and classes to help improve the education of all children around menstruation, as well as providing access for all to feminine hygiene products. The program will be held in conjunction with the Self-Esteem Team, an organisation that provides workshops for children in schools.
Co-founder of the Self-Esteem Team, Grace Barrett, says education is key to normalising periods.
“People are still uncomfortable talking about periods because of how we educate about them,” she said. “Humour is a common tactic used to handle things that make us uncomfortable. Because periods fall into that category, girls are often left feeling like the butt of the joke.
“We need to educate boys better about periods, so they feel comfortable and don’t need to use humour as a defence. Sometimes jokes stick and we don’t want another generation of girls to carry that shame with them for the rest of their lives.”