by Eleanor Steafel
More than a quarter of girls don't know what to do when they start their period, while nearly half are embarrassed by them, a survey has found.
The findings, based on a study commissioned by girls' rights charity Plan International UK, expose how deeply the stigma surrounding periods still runs among young women, with many feeling the need to make up excuses when their period impacts on their day-to-day life.
Forty-nine per cent of the 1,000 girls surveyed said they had missed an entire day of school because of their period, of which 59 per cent have made up a lie, or excuse. Meanwhile 82 per cent of the girls surveyed admitted they have hidden or concealed their sanitary products, while nearly three quarters said they felt embarrassed even buying them.
The charity is calling for periods to be normalised with the launch of their #weallbleed campaign, aimed at breaking the stigma.
Tanya Barron, Plan International’s Chief Executive said more needed to be done to address the impact that euphemising and belittling menstruation is having on girls.
“Girls are telling us that they are embarrassed, confused and ashamed about periods, a completely natural biological process which happens to half the global population," she said. “As a society we obsessively euphemise, belittle and silence menstruation; we need to address the impact this is having on girls.
“As a global girls’ rights charity we know that pervading cultural taboos and lack of education around periods can have a damaging impact on the lives of girls both here in the UK and across the world, exposing them to discrimination and preventing them from fulfilling their potential.”
One girl said it might become easier to get rid of the stigma if boys were educated about periods just as much as girls.
Jessica, 17, said: "Even though they don’t have them, they should still be educated in them because for the rest of their lives they’ll be round people that do and then maybe it would help them to understand, why it happens and how it happens and what happens during the periods.
"Then they won’t be as scared of female hygiene products or they just wouldn’t be as frightened to talk about it with other people than they might be without being educated about it.
"It shouldn’t make people feel awkward talking about something that everybody goes through and if people spoke about periods more, it could help a lot of people.”