Period Poverty: A Menstrual Equity Issue in the Modern World
Period poverty is a pervasive and often overlooked issue affecting millions of people around the world. It refers to the lack of access to sanitary products, adequate menstrual hygiene education and proper sanitation facilities. This issue disproportionately affects those who menstruate, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, marginalised communities and developing countries.
Period poverty not only hampers the physical health and well-being of individuals but also perpetuates gender inequality and hinders educational and economic opportunities.
This blog post aims to shed light on the concept of period poverty, its causes and consequences, as well as the initiatives and solutions being implemented to address this critical issue.
Understanding Period Poverty
Period Poverty is a complex issue. It encompasses;
Lack of Access to Menstrual Products: In many developing countries and marginalised communities, women and girls face barriers in obtaining affordable and hygienic menstrual products. The high cost of sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups can place an additional financial burden on already struggling families.
Limited Sanitation Facilities: Insufficient or inadequate sanitation facilities, including clean toilets and private spaces, further exacerbate the challenges faced by menstruating individuals. This lack of basic infrastructure hinders their ability to manage their periods with dignity and privacy.
Stigma and Shame: Societal taboos surrounding menstruation contribute to the perpetuation of period poverty. The stigma and shame associated with menstruation can prevent individuals from seeking help or openly discussing their needs, leading to feelings of embarrassment and isolation.
Causes of Period Poverty
The predominant causes and consequences of Period Poverty are;
Socioeconomic Factors: Economic disparities play a significant role in perpetuating period poverty. Limited financial resources often force individuals to prioritize other basic needs over purchasing menstrual products. This lack of access can result in unhygienic practices, such as using unsanitary materials like rags, leaves, or pieces of mattress, which can lead to infections and health complications.
Lack of Menstrual Education: Insufficient knowledge and awareness about menstruation can contribute to the cycle of period poverty. Inadequate education on menstrual hygiene management, reproductive health, and available resources further marginalize women and girls, restricting their opportunities for empowerment and overall well-being.
Educational Barriers: Period poverty can also hinder educational opportunities for girls. In many regions, girls may miss school or drop out altogether due to the lack of menstrual products and sanitation facilities. This disruption to their education perpetuates gender inequality and limits their future prospects.
Addressing Period Poverty
There are multiple way to begin addressing Period Poverty. Some of these initiatives and solutions include;
Legislative Changes and Policy Advocacy: Governments and organisations around the world are recognising the importance of menstrual equity and are implementing policy changes to address period poverty. For example, Scotland became the first country to provide free menstrual products in schools, colleges, and universities. Similar initiatives are being undertaken in various countries to ensure equitable access to menstrual products.
Non-Profit Organizations and Community Initiatives: Numerous non-profit organisations are working tirelessly to combat period poverty. They distribute menstrual products, provide educational resources, and advocate for systemic change. One notable organisation is the Share the Dignity, which providing free products to those in need in Australia.
Menstrual Cup Programs: Menstrual cups are reusable, eco-friendly alternatives to traditional menstrual products. Several initiatives aim to provide low-cost or free menstrual cups to individuals in low-income communities. These programs not only address the financial aspect of period poverty but also promote sustainable menstruation practices.
Global Partnerships and Donations: Companies, individuals, and philanthropic organisations are recognising the importance of addressing period poverty and are contributing through donations and partnerships. By supporting organisations working on the ground, these collaborations help ensure the sustained availability of menstrual products and menstrual education.
Period poverty is a multifaceted issue that requires comprehensive solutions. Access to menstrual products, proper sanitation facilities, and menstrual education are essential for promoting menstrual equity and breaking the cycle of period poverty. Governments, organisations, and individuals must work collectively to dismantle the barriers and taboos surrounding menstruation and ensure that no one is left behind due to their menstrual cycle.
By addressing period poverty, we can empower women and girls, promote gender equality, and create a more inclusive and just society for all.
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- Hennegan, J., Dolan, C., & Steinfield, L. (2019). "Menstrual hygiene in schools: midway progress update on the “basic” pillars of response." Waterlines, 38(1), 16-29.
- WaterAid. (2021). "Periods in a pandemic: menstrual hygiene management during COVID-19." Retrieved from https://washmatters.wateraid.org/sites/g/files/jkxoof256/files/periods-pandemic-menstrual-hygiene-management-covid-19.pdf