It just seems natural to North American girls and women to feel put upon and inconvenienced when their period starts, especially if the arrival is unexpected. But these are first world problems. In other parts of the globe, menstruation can have serious consequences.
The combination of insufficient resources, and local taboos make menstruation a complicated problem for girls and women in many countries. Going to school or to work may become impossible.
In many countries, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, of the National Institutes of Health, schools have neither latrines nor indoor bathrooms with doors for girls. Water may be a distance away, so the simple need to wash off blood can't be met. And where do they dispose of their used rags or cloths, privately so they are not ridiculed?
Such situations make girls and women less than secure in the fact that menstruation is a natural function.
Menstrual hygiene management has been way down the list for too long, in helping girls and women in poorer countries with sexual and reproductive needs. Contraception, STI prevention, and family planning have taken precedence up until recently.
Nongovernmental groups, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), other international groups have begun to focus attention on this problem.
Research in 2001 involving girls in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe highlighted poor sanitation, lack of education in menstrual hygiene management, and the awkwardness that comes with having mostly male teachers with traditional and unenlightened views. The case studies were funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.
For many girls in other countries, school is tough but home is not any better. Few girls may be learning what to expect at home, and may feel the need to be secretive out of fear of getting in trouble. Some girls may be afraid that they are very sick, or in danger healthwise. Others may fear that their families will believe their periods somehow indicate that they've been sexually active.
A study done in India involved almost 100,000 girls.