My Experience of Menstrual Health Education
Endometriosis UK recently ran a campaign highlighting menstrual education in UK schools. Thousands of women shared their experiences of what they had learnt about periods at school, and how that had had a knock on effect with their endometriosis diagnoses. What became clear was the gaping hole in the curriculum, and how many of us had gone without even the briefest of talks on the topic.
Luckily, the campaign worked. It gained the attention of the UK government and, because of it, Menstrual Wellbeing will now be included in the Relationships and Sex Education curriculum by 2020. Better yet, this curriculum will be compulsory for all children in both primary and secondary education - regardless of gender.
This was a huge milestone for those of us in the endometriosis community. It felt like we were finally laying the groundwork for the next generations.
It got me thinking about my own experiences of health and sexual education back when I was at school. Or, rather, the massive lack of it.
I attended school from 1988-2000. Times were different and things weren't talked about then, how they are now. Both schools were also devout Roman Catholic establishments so, as far as we were concerned, there was no other faith but Catholicism. Of course, this meant there were certain things they just wouldn't, and couldn't, teach us.
At primary school, we had no education on the human body. Similarly, in secondary school we again had very little education on the topic. We were shown a short video of children in a swimming pool which then flicked to an animated diagram of the male and female anatomies... And, well, that was that.
Oh, there was the time our year was separated in to boys and girls though, and we were given, you know, "the talk". Was it about sex? Consent? Maybe, how our bodies work? No. The girls got told off because someone was sticking their used sanitary towels to the toilet walls. Yes, you read that right!
At the time, we didn't realize how little we were taught on the subject and it only became apparent when I left and spoke with people that had attended different schools.
Time for change
Having started my periods at the age of 12, and shown symptoms of endometriosis from this point, I wonder how different my journey might have been had I had the knowledge behind me. Of course, my mama tried to talk about periods with me. And the girls at school talked about them, but, we were teenagers. We were either too busy cringing or thinking the world was ending with how they made us feel!
I wish we had been given the education to not only know what a period is, but for the shame to have been lifted too. For everyone to understand that it wasn't something to laugh about or to be bullied over.
My hope for the future is that girls and boys will know what is and isn't normal with their bodies and that they will have the skills to talk about it with others.
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