07.25.131:36 PM ET

Periods Keeping India’s Women Poor

“Many girls, when they get their period, say it means the end for them.”

India’s women face a striking problem when it comes to their periods. Out of the 355 million women who are able to give birth in India, only 12 percent use pads or other methods to try to stop their flow, according to a 2010 study. Even though the rapidly modernizing country has tripled per-capita income growth, some women are stuck in the past. Women in Indian villages are considered “impure” when they have their periods, and the word for genitals is considered a profanity. As an alternative, women in India have been using menstrual cups, an invention that one user says is a “thing from hell.” These cups are not designed to absorb periods, but rather collect them. The cups are washed and reused. Yet another problem, according to the research, is that one in five women drop out of school when they start their periods. According to AC Nielsen and Plan India, the girls who continue usually don’t go to school for five days a month as a result of subpar menstrual protection and facilities.