COVID-19 and Menstruation: A pandemic of taboos.

It was June 2019. I was visiting the city of Chiang Mai in Thailand, when I saw the

beautiful Inthakhin or Pillar of the city during a walk. I was ready to enter it when I found

myself in front of a sign with a woman’s silhouette crossed out. The sign read: “Men only.

Women are prohibited to enter because they menstruate. It is believed that it humiliates and

ruins the sanctity of the city pillar.” I took a step back and read it a couple more times.

“Women are prohibited to enter because they menstruate.”


Taboos, myths, and lack of education around the menstrual cycle make menstruators’ lives

difficult and in many cases dangerous, especially in times of emergency like a global

pandemic. In the world, 2.3 billion people live without basic sanitation services, and in

developing countries only 27% of people have adequate hand washing facilities at home,

according to UNICEF. The pandemic has caused menstrual products shortages, and

shelters and social work facilities have run out of supplies to provide to those in need.

As Covid-19 has spread, so has misinformation, discrimination and stigma around

menstruation. Women and girls are told not to bathe during their menstrual cycle (US, UK,

Israel); not allowed to touch food (India); and even prohibited to be at home or go to school

(Nepal, Afghanistan). In Tanzania, some believe that if a menstrual cloth is seen by others,

the owner of the cloth may be cursed. In Sierra Leone, it is believed that used sanitary

napkins can be used to make someone sterile. In Surinam, menstrual blood is believed to be

dangerous. And as the list of myths goes on… and on.


In the midst of the Covid-19 health crisis it is more imperative than ever to

acknowledge that it is a human right to manage periods safely and in dignity at all

times. In order to do so, it is critical to mainstream the talk about menstruation as a normal

biological process and do our part in ending the pandemic of taboos. These myths and

social norms restrict menstruators’ participation in society and therefore, limit their rights and



As you can see, whether it is shortage of menstrual products, lack of access to basic

sanitation services or discriminatory cultural norms and practices, menstruators -especially

the world’s poorest- are deeply impacted by the current situation. I think I can hear you

saying… How can we help?

● Raise awareness by sharing this article and other UN Women media posts or

infographics on menstrual health. Follow UN Women social media and help spread

the word!

● Donate to UN Women to continue supporting programs across the world and raise

crucial funds to reach gender equality and empower women and girls.

● Educate yourself and others . Always strive to learn more about the importance of

collective work in order to change the negative connotations and norms surrounding

periods across the world. Check the Guidance on Menstrual Health and Hygiene to

learn more about the UN global humanitarian menstrual health and hygiene

programming and its impact.

● Join the United Nations global solidarity movement for gender equality HeforShe .

Millions of people around the world are now part of this movement. Get inspired by

their stories and take action!

● Check UN Women initiatives and get involved in one or many ways! Take part in UN

Women’s campaigns, professional networks or become a member!

Remember that your voice matters, your actions make it real. Which one will you take next?



María Barragán Ortiz

Educational mentor, female empowerment for academic purposes specialist and UN Women

USA Chicago Chapter member.


Community Resources to Act Against Racism



Our community works to foster greater understanding and action on gender inequality. Given the latest occurrences of police brutality in the US, we want to dig deeper to educate ourselves and address the systemic issues that disproportionately affect people of color. It is no longer sufficient to say that we are not racist and have that position guide our daily interactions. At this moment, we must act. We have to engage as anti-racists in word and deed through our advocacy and actions.

This page will continually update resources for personal education through books, articles and podcasts, action links, guides for having difficult conversations about race, and parenting resources to begin to raise conscious kids. 


Take Action

Register to Vote (This link can also be used to check if you are registered.)

Find out where to vote in your area





The 1619 Project by Hannah-Nikole Jones (New York Times)

2020 is the Summer of the Road. Unless You’re Black by Tariro Mzezewa (New York Times)

The Other America speech by Dr. Martin Luther King

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility : Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin J.  DiAngelo

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Uprooting Racism by Paul Kivel

They Can't Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence : Understanding and facilitating difficult dialogues on race by Derald Wing Sue

Things That Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett

"Why Are All the Black kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" : and other conversations about race by Beverly Daniel Tatum

White Like Me by Tim Wise

Dear White America by Tim Wise

Dispatches from the Race War by Tim Wise

Biased by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude M. Steele, PhD

Race for Profit by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill

Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide by Crystal M. Fleming, PhD



Educate and Learn

NYC Commission on Human Rights: Racism Report 

Outsmarting Human Minds - Test your implicit bias

The #SayHerName Project - African American Policy Forum (AAPF) brings awareness to the often invisible names and stories of Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police violence, and provides support to their families.

Center for Policing Equity - Center for Policing Equity’s work continues to simultaneously aid police departments to realize their own equity goals as well as advance the scientific understanding of issues of equity within organizations and policing.




The Conscious Kid - Diverse children's book library centering underrepresented and oppressed groups

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

Skin Again by bell hooks

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce & Debbie Levy 

Raising Race Conscious Children - a resource for talking about race with young children




Rachel Cargle a writer and lecturer who explores the intersection between race and womanhood

Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How To Be An Antiracist and Director of the Antiracism Center

Nikkolas Smith, the artist behind portraits of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and others

Charlene Carruthers, founder of the Black Youth Project 100

Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD - Franklin A. Thomas Professor in Policing Equity at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice




Into America with Trymaine Lee

8 minutes and 46 seconds with Chris Hays & Trymaine Lee

Into Protest and the NFL

Talking to kids about racism

White Accountability with Tim Wise

A conversation with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison 

Can you hear us now? - Being Black in America Today

A conversation with James Clyburn

Code Switch an NPR podcast tackling race from all angles

Hear To Slay with Roxane Gay and Tressie McMillan Cottom

Pod Save The People Organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson explores news, culture, social justice, and politics with analysis from fellow activists Brittany Packnett, Sam Sinyangwe, and writer Dr. Clint Smith III




Robin DiAngelo discusses her book White Fragility

Ibram X. Kendi on How to be an Anti-Racist