Teenage girls deserve a special day, period


Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 2

A leading women's group yesterday suggested naming a day in celebration of the first step teenage girls take toward womanhood.

"We want girls experiencing their first period to have a positive experience instead of a negative one, which is all too common in our society," said Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容), director of the Garden of Hope Foundation.

The date the foundation is proposing for "daughters' day" is the sixth day of the sixth month of the lunar calendar, because double six symbolizes prosperity.

According to an online survey conducted by the foundation last month and this month, people of both sexes harbor negative feelings toward menstruation.

Seventy-seven percent of female respondents said their first experience of menstruation was a nuisance and that they felt lost.

Seventy percent of male respondents also considered menstruation to be troublesome as well.

The survey also showed that only 8.2 percent of girls had been offered good wishes or encouraging words when they first menstruated, while the majority of respondents reported hiding news of their first period as they felt ashamed of their physical change.

"From the survey it is apparent that the image of menstruation has been twisted and that its negative image is detrimental to teenage girls," Chi said.

"We should therefore celebrate the onset of menstruation so that all of the negative connotations attached to it are eradicated," she said.

One academic said that fathers should also have a greater role in educating their daughters about menstruation.

"Where is the responsibility of men on this issue? Gender issues require the attention of both sexes. Men should be responsible for building character in teenage girls as well," said Wang Lih-rong (王麗容), an associate professor of sociology at National Taiwan University (NTU).

Another academic said that more importance ought to be placed on the psychological adjustments that many girls have to make after they have experienced their first period.

"Many girls feel less worthy than boys because they are experiencing something that boys of the same age do not. I encourage them to keep a diary which compares the physiological changes and emotional changes that they go through during menstruation," said Chang Chueh (張玨), an associate professor at NTU's College of Public Health.

"It is also important to be more activist about this issue -- as the US and Canada began doing 20 years ago -- and encourage girls to appreciate their bodies," she said.

The government said it was continuing to provide funding for gender issues.

"The Ministry of the Interior's budget for women and gender issues has increased by about 15 percent annually," said Su Li-chiung (蘇麗瓊), head of the ministry's department of social affairs.

"Special policies have also targeted teenage girls. We can be assured that the government cares about gender equality and women's issues," she said.