Why menstruation education is crucial for our kids
By Tasha Lawton
Why does is matter that we educate our kids about #menstruation?
Firstly, it matters because about 20% of teenage girls in Australia miss school due to period pain, according to Dr Susan Evans from the Pelvic Pain Foundation, and secondly it matters because other girls are dropping out because they:
1. Feel shame and embarrassment about their bodies 2. Can’t afford to buy sanitary products 3. Get teased.
Another staggering statistic that’s beginning to get some traction in the media is related to #Endometriosis. Did you know that 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in Australia and New Zealand suffer from Endometriosis? Possibly not!
This condition occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside its normal location in a woman's body and often results in a range of painful symptoms including period pain and chronic pelvic pain, pain urinating, constipation and diarrhoea. Because we’re not talking about it, women have no idea first what it even is, let alone what to do about it.
Period Poverty is another reality that’s having a negative affect, with 1 in 10 women and girls not being able to afford period products and 50% of young adults missing out on full school days because of this.
The University of Queensland's Global Change Institute report found indigenous girls who were normally law-abiding felt forced to steal sanitary pads from local stores, because packets could cost up to $10 each. Schools in some areas had no sanitary bins in bathrooms, others had no soap, or the toilets clogged up, the report found after speaking to 17 organisations in Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and NSW.
And we’ve all been there and it sucks. Maybe it was even your first period and it caught you by surprise! Not having access to adequate facilities in toilets, period products and just generally feeling really embarrassed about the whole thing (like school isn’t hard enough as a young adult!).
Girls’ education shouldn’t have to suffer because their bodies are going through one of the most natural processes known to humans. A process without which, we wouldn’t exist.
Currently, on the whole, most education on the subject in schools consists of one or two hour long sessions that involves a one way conversation involving an adult talking at a large group of kids about ‘sex education’. Perhaps twenty minutes of that time mentions purely the mechanics of menstruation (which to be fair is twenty minutes more than kids in India and Africa get).
However, it’s still nowhere near enough time to teach kids the critical information they should be receiving about the menstrual cycle itself and the changes that occur in their bodies each and every week.
It’s nowhere near enough time to explain that feeling full on pain and suffering is NOT normal during your period, what signs to look out for and where to go to get help.
It’s nowhere near enough time to discuss the environmental impacts of sanitary products or indeed talk about the different options available.
It’s nowhere near enough time to unpack the impact periods have on kids from families without enough money to buy sanitary products, or kids in other countries who can’t afford them either.
It’s nowhere near enough time to teach or even investigate the different cultures and traditions that are practised and followed around the world in relation to periods.
Even if kids are getting some education, it can vary a lot between schools and even teachers because of resources and, back to our old nemesis, shame and taboo.
Some schools talk about reusable menstrual hygiene options, however many menstrual education lessons only mention disposable options. Disposable options are more expensive, more damaging to the environment and they also contribute to menstrual taboo by implying that menstruation needs to be hidden or is unhygienic.
Without proper education, not only are young people left feeling afraid and ashamed, they’re much less likely to spot important symptoms and get adequate help with menstrual health. If these issues are not spoken about enough and go undiagnosed, young people may have terrible symptoms without proper help and even face infertility issues in later life.
Boys need to understand the topic just as much as girls do and at the moment, the current state of education on menstruation, is embarrassingly below par and that needs to change sooner rather than later.
So what can parents and teachers do? So many of us weren't well educated about this ourselves! Well, they need a resource that explains what kids need to know and how to teach it in an interactive way that kids respond well to. That's why we created Period Talk and it's designed for kids aged 9-13.
We have a resource for parents ($49 when you mention this blog) and a resource for teachers ($99). And $10 from every resource sold goes to Share The Dignity, an amazing Australian charity that gives sanitary products to homeless women.
So please make use of this great resource with your kids, recommend it to other parents and your local school. You have no idea this might make to the lives of your own kids and other kids in the community.
About this contributor
Tasha Lawton is a filmmaker and educator and mum to Yasmin, 15, and Harvey, 13. She's passionate about normalising conversations about health and mental health between adults and kids to empower kids in better self care and to make better choices. She wants to see the topic of menstruation normalised across the globe.
For more about her work, please visit:
or phone 0458 404 583