When you’re 10, do you know what really sucks? Getting your period. I can confirm the suckiness of this situation, because I was about a month short of my 11th birthday when I got mine.
I felt so ripped off. Between trying to process the ins and outs (pun intended) of pads and tampons I distinctly remember thinking, over and over again as if in a loop, ‘why meeeeeeeeeeeee?!’
But at least I wasn’t sent home from school for daring to do such an inconvenient thing as menstruate. My primary school, mercifully, had had a sanitary bin in the girls’ toilets in the A-block for as long as I could remember. Once an oddity registered only when you found yourself in that particular cubicle, it soon became a regular fixture in my life. I never once, however, felt that I ought to be grateful for its existence.
When I heard the news that a Kiwi 10-year-old was sent home from school until her family donated a sanitary bin for the girls’ toilets I saw red. When I read on and found that the school had suggested that the 10-YEAR-OLD GIRL should go on the contraceptive pill in order to manage her periods, my ovaries began to pulsate with rage.
A 10-year-old. Go on the pill and pump her system full of sex hormones. Because a school couldn’t sort its shit out to organise for one sanitary bin to be installed in the girls’ toilets. Bloody hell. Literally.
The story, broken by Radio New Zealand last week, sent me hurtling back 17 years in time as I remembered the deep sense of shame I felt over being one of a small handful of girls at my primary school who had her period. I can’t imagine the utter mortification of being “excluded” from school because you required the use of a bin in a toilet cubicle.
Which leads me to the obvious question: Why is it not law for every primary, intermediate and secondary school to have sanitary bins in their toilets? Or, if it is law, why aren't the authorities sweeping down on this school as we speak? By law, all commercial and industrial premises must provide the means for disposal of “sanitary towels”, so why isn’t the rule upheld in every school around the country? That a 10-year-old girl could be excluded from school because she began menstruating surely signifies an abject failing of the system on an issue that frankly should be governed by human rights legislation.
And she wasn’t alone. When Radio NZ probed deeper, they found that other girls had been forced to disrupt their educations when they found that their school did not provide sanitary bins. The girls had been able to return to school, however, when the school provided the sanitary bins asked for by their families.
Here’s hoping this story is a wake up call to every school around the country. And that the law will eventually find the teeth to ensure that no 10-year-old girl has to go through this ridiculous, sexist and unacceptable ordeal ever again.