Kiran Gandhi recently participated in the London Marathon, while on her period. She has taken the decision to run while menstruating and her actions received a lot of criticism.
The global discussion that ensued in the course of the last week has revealed that in reality there is more stigma associated with monthly periods than we ever imagined.
She ran the length of the 26.2-mile race as blood came down her legs. She says that she took the decision to run as she did to increase awareness about women around the world who have no access to feminine products. She added that she wants women to not be ashamed of their periods.
Consider how women in developing countries are influenced by secrecy and taboo. Our culture says they must hide their monthly flow, in spite of the fact that it may be unsustainable or too expensive to clean.
Even women who can use pieces of cloth to absorb the blood do not always have private places at school or at work for change. As a result, they choose to skip school or work as a less shameful alternative.
If women continue to participate in public life in the developing world, they are constantly placed in a situation of economic disadvantage.
Gandhi says there several reasons why women continue to be ashamed of their periods:
“We do not have a comfortable vocabulary to speak about it – education is missing and myths fill the gap,” she says.
For example, she says that many people called what she has done unhygienic. Gandhi says that women have been taught to pretend that their periods do not exist.
A marathon in and of itself, is a centuries-old symbolic act. So why not use it as a way to draw light, she said, on women who have no access to tampons and, in spite of the cramps and the pain, to hide away, as if they do not exist?
I think we can all applaud Kiran’s actions and congratulate her on her bravery.