Maybe you’ve heard of it in passing, or maybe the idea of Period Poverty is something completely alien. And that’s part of the problem. Its hard to address something that so few people know about. Period Poverty is Everyone’s Problem. Period. And its time we all learnt a little more about it.
Period Poverty is something that affects young girls and women everywhere. Its got a lot to do with a lack of access to basic sanitary products and the clean spaces to use them. At least 500 million women and girls don’t have a private place to change their sanitary protection during menstruation, according to UNICEF that’s the equivalent to every female living in developed countries. Its also a term used to describe those women and girls who have limited access to sanitary products. This often means they reuse the same tampons and pads which has risks of infection. Poor menstrual hygiene generally can also lead to reproductive and urinary tract infections, which makes it an even more important issue to be talking about.
But Period Poverty is a lot more than being able to manage menstrual cycles in a safe and healthy way. Its also linked to the taboo, shame and stigma attached to menstruation around the world. This stigma ranges from that time I stuffed a pad up my sleeve on the way to the toilet to young women facing social sanctions such as chhaupadi in Nepal. These stigma’s come in all shapes and sizes and just help contribute to Period Poverty.
What’s also important to mention is that Period Poverty isn’t a time of the month kind of phenomenon, it spills over to other parts of women’s life with long term impacts. It affects girl’s education, mental and physical health and economic opportunities. For girls in South Africa, a recent poll found that they’d missed at least 20% of their school year or some dropped out all together from Period Poverty.
Period Poverty represents a struggle for women who can’t afford menstrual products. These products go beyond tampons and pads to include the pain meds and underwear that go with it. And the challenge to access them is not limited by geography. The financial burden of getting access to proper products is an issue for girls and women in developing and developed countries. Surprisingly, in the UK, 1 in 10 girls from ages 14-21 are unable to afford sanitary products. Hey Girls UK is an initiative striving to address this by giving a girl or woman one pack of products for every pack you buy.
Considering that 52 percent of women and girls around the world are of reproductive age, its safe to say this is not an Ovary-action. Its both equally ridiculous and terrifying that an unavoidable basic biological event is an obstacle for so many women. Especially when its not only a woman’s problem, according to UNICEF around 2.3 billion people live without basic sanitation services globally.These vulnerabilities become even more difficult in conflict zones and post-disaster situations.
But there’s good news too, there are initiatives You can support and get behind that have been doing the damn thing on behalf of all of us to make big and little changes to an enormous issue. #freeperiod was inspired by Amika George and aims to end period poverty in schools. A Bloody Good Period works on giving sanitary products to those who can’t afford them. You can too by donating money or unopened packets of pads to them. Other global non-profits include PERIOD who’s addressing period stigma through advocacy and education. Its hard to mention everyone that’s making a difference, but on the scale of things that’s a good problem to have considering everything.