Earlier this year, a new app, called Clue, collaborated on survey of 90,000 women from 190 countries about their attitudes toward menstruation and the challenges they confront when menstruating. The survey revealed that women use a whole host of slang terms to refer to their period, such as “on the rag,” “red tide,” or “shark week.”

In addition, the survey illustrated how periods are stigmatized throughout the world and limit women’s and girls’ participation in daily life.

What women say

Almost a quarter of women who took part in the Clue survey stated that they had missed school, work, or an event because they were on their period. This is consistent with other findings that menstruation is a significant barrier to girls’ education globally.

“Recently, New York City passed a bill requiring schools and prisons to provide free pads and tampons.”

In Ghana, for example, an astonishing 95 percent of girls report missing school during their periods, often because they don’t have access to safe and clean bathrooms and can’t afford to buy sanitary pads.

What needs to change

Calls for better access to feminine hygiene products are growing around the world. In India, Rwanda, and other countries, social businesses are making products that are more affordable, and more sustainable. Similar efforts to improve access to these essential products are afoot here in the United States. Recently, New York City passed a bill requiring schools and prisons to provide free pads and tampons.

Others are breaking barriers by tackling the shame associated with menstruation. At the Rio Olympics, Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui spoke publicly about how being on her period may have made her more fatigued and affected her performance in competition.

We’ll see further progress when more girls and women are able to speak openly about menstruation and make choices about their bodies and lives. The period is a normal occurrence that women and girls around the world experience every month — no matter what you call it.