By ROSLYN CAMPBELL
I was 15 when I got my first period. I was so relieved because I was one of the last girls in my circle of friends to get it. I did a little dance and proclaimed to my friends that I was finally a woman, or something like that. Then I went to the cupboard and found the sanitary pads my mum bought for me, stuck one in my undies and continued on with life, without thinking twice about what had just happened.
I graduated high school, attended university, travelled, played sport, got a job and started a business. My period never got in the way of me doing any of these things.
I’m sure most Australian women can relate to my story.
Now, let’s go back to the moment I got my first period. What if my mother couldn’t afford sanitary pads? What would I have done? Where would I be now? What would it be like to have my period every month?
A few years ago I heard about the organisation One Girl and their Launch Pad program, where they work in Sierra Leone, West Africa to make biodegradable, affordable sanitary pads available to women and girls. In many developing countries like Sierra Leone, women and girls do not have access to sanitary pads. They are simply too expensive. Instead, they rely on methods including rags, layered underwear, kitchen sponges, newspaper and even leaves and bark. These methods are not ideal, along with the higher chance of embarrassing leaks; they can cause health problems like infections, rashes and cuts.
What really stuck with me was that something as manageable as a period could be a barrier to education for millions of girls in the developing world. Girls could miss up to a week of school every month, which would often result in them falling so far behind that they would have to drop out.