A museum to fight the taboo of menstruation in Taiwan

A museum to fight the taboo of menstruation in Taiwan

With Red's mandate is to fight to promote “menstrual fairness”, a global problem.

In many Asian countries, it is taboo to talk about menstruation for several reasons, whether religious or social. Many women experience menstrual stigma or lack access to feminine hygiene products. A young woman, Vivi Lin, created a museum in Taipei to tackle taboos.

The BBC named her one of its 100 most influential people on the planet two years ago after it called out the president of the World Organization health on social networks.

At just 24 years old and fresh out of college, Vivi Lin has become a leader in the fight against menstrual inequity and stigma in Taiwan.

It is difficult, even today, for many people to mention the expression “to have one's period”. That's part of the problem, she says. When I got my first period, I didn't even know what it was! I could see that my mother was uncomfortable and didn't want to talk to me too much about it.

Vivi Lin founded the non-profit organization lucrative With Red three years ago to combat these issues. With Red opened a museum earlier this year dedicated to menstruation and all things period. Workshops are offered there. Young girls and grandparents participate without embarrassment in order to demystify the subject.

Representatives from With Red even went to clean a temple on May 28, International Menstrual Health Day. They also created a lucky charm with temple officials in an attempt to break taboos.

Many people do not believe that menstruating women can go to the temple to pray or even participate in religious activities,” says Vivi Lin. Pharmacies even give a paper bag to those who buy sanitary napkins in order to hide them.

Changing people's perceptions and getting them to talk about it freely is a long-term job. With Red also offers workshops at universities. In the Taiwanese school system, the subject is often rushed and in some classes, only girls receive information about menstruation.

By working in a group, I can change people's perception of this natural phenomenon. We work with different governments to fight menstrual inequity too. The goal is that this museum no longer serve to educate people, but that they can testify to what we have managed to accomplish.

Vivi Lin, pioneer of women's right to menstrual fairness in Asia

Because the young founder of With Red campaigns first and foremost for menstrual equity, or to promote access to feminine hygiene products for those who are less fortunate and who need them the most. The problem is glaring in several Asian countries, particularly the poorest.

According to data collected by the organization With Red, one in ten women in Taiwan, one of the Asian countries the most developed and open, would not have access to hygienic products when she needs them.

It's mostly a problem of poverty, says Ruby Huang, who teaches the Rules: Theories, Thoughts and Actions course at National Taiwan University.

When you live under the poverty line, you have to prioritize your family expenses even more, she says. The top priority is obviously housing and food. In many cases, feminine hygiene products are at the bottom of the list.

Chronic depression and health problems can result from this lack of access to sanitary pads and tampons. With Red encourages the Taiwanese government to provide such products in the toilets of certain public places.

In many Asian countries, many women suffer from menstrual stigma, for religious or cultural reasons, and have difficulty accessing products that are essential to their health. To break this isolation, a young Taiwanese woman created a museum to promote menstrual health. Report by Philippe Leblanc.

The problem is not observed only in Asia or in poor countries, it is present everywhere on the planet.

In Ottawa, the last Trudeau budget tackled it. As part of a two-year pilot project, the Canadian government will allocate $25 million to combat menstrual inequity in Canada. Scotland has just announced that it will provide free tampons and sanitary napkins to all women and girls who need them.

This is the elephant in the room, according to Vivi Lin. Menstrual inequity is there, in evidence around the world, but it is not talked about much. The fact that we don't talk about it makes the problem invisible. You have to start by not being afraid to talk about menstruation.

In the room painted red and pink on the second floor of the With Red museum, a few young girls, aged between 8 and 11, learn how to handle sanitary napkins. They are all accompanied by their parents.

Seated in the back, 9-year-old Ariel is happy to be able to lift the veil on menstruation with her mother during this workshop. She learns how to handle feminine hygiene products and how to calculate the calendar of menstruation.

Nine-year-old Ariel with her mom at a With Red workshop.

< p class="e-p">I won't be ashamed to talk about it when my period comes. I hope more young girls will feel like this. We were told today that many girls are embarrassed. You don't have to.

The 10-year-old twins, Dora and Sophie, came with their dad. They have the chance to learn together and will be able to discuss their experiences at home. Their dad wanted to be with them.

Men also need to know more to dare to talk about it, believes David Yeh. My daughters will soon go through puberty and they learned a lot of useful things today to cope with it.

Breaking taboos is only the first step towards a solution to the menstrual inequity.

Our correspondent in Asia Philippe Leblanc will be based in Taiwan for the next few months, to introduce us to this island of nearly 24 million inhabitants , its society and the challenges that drive it. And also to cover current issues from the entire Asia-Pacific region.

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