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Marketing and Comms
Want to Improve Your Company’s Bottom Line? Talk About Periods

Period shame is rooted in gender inequality. As we continue to work to un correct this, we can catalyze public-private partnerships that positively impact menstrual health and girls’ self-esteem while driving economic benefits.

In a crowded plaza in Cartagena, Colombia, 24-year-old Valeria confidently walks by crowds of people. Some stare and point, others whisper. A woman notices her and walks up to Valeria and says, “Honey, you are all stained.” The woman is unaware that Valeria is participating in a social experiment launched by Plan International to normalize menstrual health.

As we celebrate the 10th annual International Menstrual Health Day (May 28), at least one in four women of reproductive age around the world is currently unable to access what she needs to manage her period. Menstruation is still considered to be a private matter for girls and associated with embarrassment or disgust. Through education, intergenerational dialogues and awareness-raising campaigns, we can work together to challenge and address the question, “Why is it still so hard to talk about periods?”

Let’s be clear: Period shame is rooted in gender inequality. The World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 131 years until we achieve true, global gender equality. To beat this clock, we can catalyze public-private partnerships that positively impact menstrual health and girls’ self-esteem while driving economic benefits.

This is why Plan is working with the Kimberly-Clark Foundation and the Kotex® brand. Since 2020, we have worked together on the Kotex She Can initiative to implement menstrual-health programs targeting girls and young women in eight countries around the world. These programs are designed to address the root of period shame through activities that transform attitudes, behaviors and practices — thus, promoting an enabling environment that boosts girls’ confidence, agency and dignity.

To effectively tackle period shame and increase their bottom line, corporate partners can help support programs that:

Raise girls’ self-esteem.

Taboos, myths and shame surrounding menstruation can lead to teasing, shaming and exclusion and have a negative effect on girls’ sense of dignity. That’s why, as part of our programs with Kotex, we educate girls on menstrual health and train them to be peer leaders who spread their knowledge to others in their school and community — thereby increasing their knowledge, leadership skills and confidence.

Businesses can work with girls as leaders and raise their self-esteem by investing in programs that aim to dismantle myths, stereotypes and taboos around menstruation. Doing so develops a generation of leaders who are able to share their expertise freely in a work environment and who aren’t afraid of being shamed or silenced by their peers.

Improve girls’ participation and performance in school and beyond.

Menstrual health also has a huge impact on girls’ education and workforce participation, as many girls in developing countries are often forced to skip classes or miss work when they are on their period. The reasons for this are culturally entrenched and vary across the world — including being forced into isolation while menstruating; stigmas and taboos that hinder adequate access to information, supplies and sanitary facilities; and symbolic perceptions that a girl who menstruates is ready for marriage.

To best meet her needs, we engage peers, schools and community members to demystify menstruation and create an environment that supports her in upholding her menstrual health. Businesses can develop workplace cultures that are responsive to the needs of all individuals, including those of girls and young women, to ensure girls are reaching and contributing their full potential in educational and professional settings.

Enable girls to fully participate in all aspects of society.

Girls and women around the world are often expected to refrain from normal activities, such as bathing or cooking, and may even be banished from the home during their period. That’s why we tailor educational campaigns to bring mass awareness to communities about the importance of menstrual health and to dismantle beliefs that hold girls back. Across eight menstrual health programs, together with Kotex, we’ve reached more than 1 million individuals. Businesses can seek to influence policies and practices to develop gender-responsive workplace cultures that boost productivity, reduce absenteeism and foster collaboration among all employees.

Ten years from now, I hope that girls’ potential is no longer hindered by the perfectly normal biological function that is a period. It would be a world where girls like Lizette don’t have to create public-awareness campaigns about periods, because we will be focused on stories of girls who have completed their education and are able to decide what future they want. When girls and women can fully participate in the workforce, everyone gains — including your bottom line.