Opinion | Combating Menstrual Stigma

Opinion | Combating Menstrual Stigma

To the Editor

Re “When Pads Can’t Fix Prejudice” (Sunday Review, April 1)

Chris Bobel suggests that menstrual activism focuses disproportionately on providing hygiene products, instead of combating menstrual stigma. While I agree with 99 percent of her argument, she underestimates the role products can play in reducing stigmas.

As a program manager for water and sanitation projects at Plan International, I have seen firsthand how the provision of products, or the construction of sanitation facilities, opens the door to dialogue in places where it was firmly shut.

Menstrual stigma is often so strong that local authorities balk when related programming is proposed. But they like infrastructure and technological fixes. So by offering new toilets and access to products, we gain permission to talk to girls, boys, parents, teachers and the community about menstruation, stigma and taboos.

I share Ms. Bobel’s frustrations. But sometimes a pad is more than just a pad.

CAITLIN GRUER, WASHINGTON

The writer is a program manager for water, sanitation and health practice at Plan International USA, a nonprofit.

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