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Women are not a target this IWD, period.

Women are not a target this IWD, period.

By Diana Alghoul, Muslim Aid’s Communications and PR Manager.

“I’m praying to Allah that I don’t get my period”, says Mona, a teenage girl in Gaza. “We went to a school that was stocking hygiene products and they only gave me five pads.”

“I can’t imagine getting my period and surviving with five pads” she shudders.

“I just can’t.”

Every girl and woman listening to her speak would have shuddered with her.

Whether she’s talking about her first period or not, being a teenager means Mona is currently defining her relationship with her womanhood. She doesn’t deserve to associate her early days of her sacred cycle with fear and war, she doesn’t deserve to wish her period away and she most certainly doesn’t deserve the heavy emotions that come with rejecting her God-given gift of her femininity all because she doesn’t have access to pads.

According to the UN, there are currently 700,000 women and girls in Gaza who are navigating their menses with little privacy or access to pads, toilets and clean water. In the shelters run by UNRWA there is only one toilet per 486 people on average.

The global Muslim Aid family has recognised this and we are organising female hygiene care packages for girls and women that include pads, daily liners, razors, nail clippers, moisturisers and deodorant. But delivering this essential care is not enough. We must destigmatise the taboo, we must tell the stories of these girls and women and we, as a community, must highlight this plight as we call for a ceasefire.

As Muslims, our faith champions the womb and cherishes the sacred menses (all while continuing to validate the femininity and womanhood of girls and women who don’t menstruate).

During the battle of Khaybar, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came across a girl called Umayyah bint Qays (may Allah be pleased with her). She relayed the story of the day she was nursing injured soldiers while she got her first period. The Prophet (PBUH) saw her, comforted her and gave her water and salt to clean her clothes. He later returned from a battle and gifted her a necklace as a celebratory gift for starting her menses. She was so touched by the gesture that she kept that necklace on for the rest of her life. (Tabaqat al-Kubra, Volume 8, Entry 4245)

This is our tradition, and the fact that girls and women in Gaza are being faced with such struggles is unfathomable and something we should never stop talking about as Muslims.

Basic hygiene and soil of Mama Palestine’s soulful touch

The mental, physical and spiritual consequences of having to fight your period while your home is being ravaged indiscriminately are nothing short of unjust and a failure of the international community.

Women have been taking pills to prevent their period, orphaned girls are left without a mother to guide their transition, and women reaching menopause are dealing with foreign symptoms without a community of other women who are also entering the silver stage of their womanly journey. Sadly, none of these girls and women have access to natural, or medical treatments to manage their symptoms, or even support their basic hygiene.

Sage tea is a staple in Palestinian culture across the genders, but is given to girls and women at all stages of their cycle. It’s a physical and emotional healer and a cozy drink that is symbolic of the healing attributes that come out of the warm and loving soil of Mama Falesteen.

As girls and women endure bombs and starvation, we must remember that Palestinian girls and women in Gaza are also being deprived of their natural medicine, their history, their lineage and their herbal culture that have all been preserved for thousands of years. Palestinian women have everything in their culture that helps them thrive in their natural femininity, yet here we are talking about basic humanitarian needs induced by cruel man-made circumstances. All of which stripped away in what seems to be a blink of an eye in what seems to be a never-ending attack on Gaza.

The stress of this onslaught and disconnect from healthcare, hygiene, community, nature, and heritage is causing miscarriages, triggering endometriosis and PCOS; creating yet more agony for Gaza’s girls and women. No pain killers, no chocolate, not even water to drink let alone to fill up a hot water bottle to ease cramps; all while not knowing if your mental health is being affected because of this onslaught or as a symptom of your ever deteriorating hormonal health. The tragic answer is both, but which symptom belonging to which trauma remains a haunting mystery.

This must stop.

As we mark the achievements of women this IWD, we need to keep the plight of girls and women in Gaza in our hearts. We need to continue to advocate for a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow such simple, yet such priceless aid to go through.

Most of all, we need to recognise the multidimensional pain that girls and women in Gaza and other conflict zones are going through. Allah (SWT) describes the womb as a gift of mercy to women and has instructed its safeguarding. Rather than resting knowing that Allah has instructed humanity to be merciful to them, the wombs of our sisters are struggling to survive and are at the mercy of ruthless bombs and starvation campaigns instead.

We are now shedding light on this issue with our latest ‘Women are not a target, Period’ campaign and if you were ignorant about this before reading this, you no longer have this excuse. How will you answer Allah when he asks you what you did about this?

We are a faith-based British international charity that provides help to people who are victims of natural disasters or conflict or suffering from poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, injustice, deprivation or lack of skills and economic opportunities.

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