Northern Ireland teachers back call for girls to receive education on periods
Northern Ireland teachers are supporting a drive to implement "age appropriate menstrual well-being education" in schools.
National charity Endometriosis UK has already secured this for schools in England from 2020 but wants the same for schools here after "shocking" Department of Health figures recently revealed the situation being endured by some Northern Ireland women affected by the condition.
Jacquie White, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union, is calling for support for Northern Ireland schools to have the type of age appropriate education being rolled out in England next year.
She said: "For too long periods have been treated like a dirty little secret, PMS too is often ridiculed along with hot flushes and all the attendant problems of menopause.
"There's nothing funny or embarrassing about any of this.
"They are facts of life and as such deserve to be taken seriously and openly discussed in a society which is sufficiently mature and educated to understand.
"The call from Endometriosis UK stemmed from shocking statistics revealing that the waiting list for a gynaecology outpatient appointment here has more than doubled in seven years."
Ms White said too many girls and young women have not been given the tools and the education they need to make informed choices about their health at the earliest opportunity.
"Given that the average diagnosis for endometriosis takes over seven years, a girl can be suffering with the debilitating symptoms of this condition for a huge proportion of her school life," she said.
"An understanding of what is and isn't normal when it comes to menstruation is the first step to empowering women from a young age to seek help if it's needed."
The call comes as Northern Ireland looks set to be the only part of the UK where girls won't have access to free sanitary products in schools from next year.
Earlier this year the Government announced that the products would be made available in secondary and primary schools in England from early 2020 but no announcements were made for schools in Northern Ireland.
Claire Best, from the Red Box Project NI, set up to stop girls missing school because of their periods by providing sanitary products to schools here, said: "Period poverty is a very real crisis that's gripping our society
"It's time that we did something about it. No girl should have to miss a class in school because she doesn't have access to sanitary wear."