“A tampon is never kept overnight, it is changed every 4 hours, otherwise there is a risk of toxic shock”, explains a medical student to a group of five or six young schoolgirls. Here we are at the Emile-Zola college in Suresnes (Hauts-de-Seine), in a room full of young girls to whom four facilitators explain the essential rudiments of their bodies. White discharge, mycoses, vulva, menstrual cycle… For thirty minutes, here they are equipped with key concepts for their intimate life. And as a reward at the end of this half hour of attention, a free period panty.
The “All panties” operation, launched by the Hauts-de-Seine department and the Hauts-de-Seine Institute, aims to distribute 25,000 menstrual panties to all middle school girls in the department, from 5th to 3rd. Ninety-eight colleges have been contacted and around ten have already taken part in the operation, both to remedy a real problem of menstrual precariousness – in France, 2 million young women and girls say they do not having the means to regularly buy sanitary protection – and an ecological problem: in her lifetime, on average, a woman throws away 10,000 to 15,000 period protections.
“I learned how to put on a tampon”
The little extra of the distribution of panties is that it is accompanied by real training, which is obviously very popular with young girls. According to Bénédicte de Kerprigent, the general manager of the Hauts-de-Seine Institute, because they “do not have this information in their family”. And indeed, when they are questioned, the half-hour of explanation has real virtues. “I learned how to put on a tampon,” slips Safaa, 13, in 4th grade. “I found it useful. White discharge, or why we have our periods, I didn’t know”, adds Eglantine*, who finds like Safaa that their interlocutors were “very nice and very clear”.
“We lift a lot of taboos in terms of the transmission of this intimate hygiene made invisible. For lack of time doctors never talk about it, we don’t talk about white discharge, fungal infections, etc. There, they have complete information that thwarts false ideas,” comments Bénédicte de Kerprigent. Indeed, “even in 3rd grade, they often saw things that were wrong,” confirms Lisa, a 21-year-old student midwife, who has just given a short lesson to teenage girls that 20 minutes questioned. “I think it’s essential to talk about it so that they don’t have any worries,” adds Lisa. And receiving panties for your period is still practical! »
“I am happy to be offered one”
In addition to the new knowledge acquired, many schoolgirls leave with the desire to test the menstrual panties they were given, from the Blooming brand, made in France. “I’ve never used it, it made me want to. It avoids waste, I am sensitive to ecology. The problem is the price of the panties [qui coutent entre 15 et 30 euros pièce]. I’m happy to be offered it, ”comments Nada, also in 4th.
Or the desire to test again, for some: “I had already tested but I didn’t like it. I had the impression that it was like a diaper, that I had false buttocks, loose Eglantine, causing general laughter. I will retest”.
*Name has been changed.