Having your period in Madagascar: a taboo that slows women’s liberation

For women in Madagascar, the menstrual period is cursed. Having access to toilets, clean water or disposable hygiene protection is a luxury they are for the vast majority of deprived people. Our reporters investigated the island, where the lack of basic infrastructure, the lack of access to basic necessities but also beliefs, taboos and humiliations, menstrual hygiene is a struggle for millions of women. With serious consequences for their emancipation, their education and their health.

During this report, we crossed the island of Madagascar to meet vulnerable women who have neither water nor hygiene protection worthy of the name. For them, the menstrual period represents an enormous obstacle to their liberation. Each month during this period, they work less than usual and have to worry about finding out how to wash several times a day, while being slowed by pain.

The unemployment rate on the island is massive and women are often financially dependent on their husbands, which further complicates their situation. We have met young girls who were forced to borrow money to buy a simple sanitary napkin … Others pay so that the most vulnerable can buy shelter.

Lack of information

Almost all the women we met use tissue as a sanitary napkin – a kind of square bought from thrift stores, often very worn. Exposing it to the sun to dry, it is shameful in the countryside … Women prefer to hide it and not drop the substance, not even each other.

Amarante Norolalao Ranerason, activist for women’s rights, says that in addition to the lack of access to basic infrastructure and basic necessities, it is the lack of information about the rules that punishes women most. Witness the story of this young girl who was relaxing with her father at the time of her first term, because he thought she had had intercourse and that was why they were bathing …

This activist explains that for women in Madagascar, menstruation is cycle after cycle, a period that generates anxiety, social exclusion, fed by taboos and misconceptions. A double punishment for the women on the island.

>> See also our program ActuElles: “Menstruation, the gradual end of a taboo”