Periods are a natural and normal part of daily life, but for many communities around the world, they are also a source of stress, shame and stigma.
For girls, this can translate into discrimination, difficulty accessing menstrual health products and schools not providing rubbish bins to dispose of period products, all of which impedes girls’ ability to receive an education.
In Laos, menstruation is a sensitive subject that many women and girls feel uncomfortable discussing. However, research shows that if girls have the opportunity to talk about periods openly, they can be better prepared and feel more comfortable during their period.
Modibodi with Plan International Australia – the charity for girls’ equality, have provided 4,400 packs of underwear to girls and women in Laos - a total of 22,000 pairs to support Plan International’s menstrual health management (MHM) program. By providing these packs (each containing five pairs of period pants in a waterproof bag) we can help prevent girls from missing out on school when they have their period, while also reducing single use plastic waste.
Empowering women to pass on period wisdom
During stage one of the program, Plan International, together with Laos Solidarity, have delivered three-day workshops designed to equip government partners with knowledge about MHM. With this knowledge, they can facilitate education sessions with local girls and women.
Thiphaphone has previously completed training in MHM, but nothing as in-depth as the one facilitated by Plan International and Laos Solidarity.
“This training on MHM has been comprehensive and so useful,” she says. “I am really impressed with the yoga poses to help relieve period cramps. I never knew that yoga poses would help. Even as someone who studied nursing, I only knew of using a hot water bottle and taking painkillers to ease cramps.”
“Another new thing that I have learned this week is the existence of period pants! I never imagined that such a product existed and that underpants that are so ‘normal looking’ like this will prevent leaking. Many years ago, I tried to use a regular cloth while I had my period, but on heavy days it leaked on me. But these Modibodi pants have built-in lining that prevents leaking, I am really looking forward to trying them myself.”
Thiphaphone feels confident she will be able to share what she has learned from the training with women and girls in the target villages in her district.
“I think the lessons will be invaluable because many teenage girls do not know how to properly manage their hygiene during periods, or how to hygienically dispose of their used sanitation pads,” Thiphaphone says. “I think that young women, especially young women who don’t have a lot of money will really like this Modibodi product. I think they will be interested to learn about the period cycle calendar too.”
The second phase of Plan International’s project is about to get underway in Saravan and Oudomxay provinces, and will see the distribution of Modibodi product to 4,400 girls and young women in secondary schools and communities