Period Power: Education and Periods In Australia and New Zealand

education, menstruation, periods, schools

If you’ve been keeping up with our #PeriodPower blog series, you might have noticed that we’ve been shedding some light on why periods are powerful in society, not just in developing countries but right on our front door step too.

From girls missing out on school to period shaming through the media, we’ve still got a long way to go for menstruation equality! That’s why we’re all about the #PeriodPower this year.

So far we’ve talked about how people are affected by attitudes towards periods in different walks of life including the workplace and  homelessness, and what you can do to support the #PeriodPower movement. In this blog post we’ll be discussing how menstrual education affects our relationship with periods, what we were taught in school about menstruation, and what it’s like to get your period at school here!

MENSTRUAL EDUCATION AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR BODIES

When did you get your first period? Teens with a uterus usually start their first period around the ages of 10-15. Although some young menstruators will be educated on what to expect before and during their period, there are many young teens who won’t.

The shocking truth is that in some countries nearly half of the people getting their period for the first time don’t know what is happening to them. With 60% feeling scared, 58% feeling embarrassed and nearly half saying they didn’t feel confident enough to tell anyone about it.

In another study it was found that 26% of young people getting their period for the first time didn’t know what to do.

Over half the population menstruate and yet young people around the country are facing their first period with shame and even fear. It’s no wonder we’re still living in a time of period taboo where half of us report feeling shame around our periods well in to adulthood!

So, what’s the deal? Periods are a normal, healthy part of life for most of us and yet it seems like we’re being brought up to know very little about them.

MENSTRUAL EDUCATION IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

If you grew up in the 80’s or 90’s you probably remember those strange, cringey animated videos (on actual VHS of course) taking you through the basics of “that time of the month”...if you got any menstruation education at all. But was this enough? And have things improved?

According to the Ministry of Education in New Zealand, menstrual education is part of the national curriculum and taught through a book called “Positive Puberty” in Primary/ Intermediate years 6-8 (ages 11-13). Once in high school they will cover the topic again and may even have a visitor from an organisation visit the school to talk about menstruation.

Physical changes during puberty are covered in primary years 5-6 in Health and Physical Education as part of the Australian Curriculum, then again in high school years 7-8.

Even if you 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. Surveys in other countries show that 76% of young people have said that they found the menstrual education they received to be awkward and embarrassing.

Some schools talk about reusable menstrual hygiene options, however many menstrual education lessons only mention disposable options. Disposable options are more expensive, damaging to the environment, 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 but 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.

Did you know that 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in Australia and New Zealand suffer from Endometriosis? Some schools in New Zealand have speakers from organisations to help educate about menstruation and Endometriosis.

It’s also believed that proper menstrual health education is linked to higher self-esteem, body confidence and informed decision-making when it comes to reproductive health.


THE REALITIES OF GETTING YOUR PERIOD AT SCHOOL

...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!).

27% of girls aged 13-18 years are absent from school because of distressing symptoms relating to their period.

Period poverty is also having a negative affect with 1 in 10 not being able to afford period products and 50% of young adults missing out on full school days because of this.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

If you’re looking for more body and menstrual information we have a ton of resources and articles on the Lunette website. Including Anatomy 101, all the info you need to know about periods and even a specific section for teens who want to use menstrual cups.

We’ve also been a part of developing a world-first resource kit for schools as part of the Sustainable Period Project, where schools can order a resource kit which contains sample menstrual cups, cloth pads, period underwear and biodegradable pads, as well as hand-outs quizzes and presentations for teachers to use in class. Launched in February 2018, the Sustainable Period Project will send out 3000 resource kits to Australian and New Zealand high schools by 2020.

Most importantly though is simply talking more about periods and doing it in the right way. Whether you’re a teacher, parent or just with your friends too.

The list goes on and on – tell us what changes you would like to see about education about menstruation in the comments! Keep the conversation going and raise awareness by sharing this post and use the hashtag #PeriodPower. You can also find us on FacebookTwitter and  Instagram for more period power talk!