Updated: Aug 22, 2022
When discussing public health crises, people tend to think of situations such as contaminated food or viruses, but a problem that does not get the attention it deserves is the lack of menstrual sanitation, often referred to as “period poverty”.
Period poverty is defined by the American Medical Women’s Association as “inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management.” The conversation about periods is not one that many young girls have. Though the process itself is perfectly natural, there still is a social stigma surrounding the topic.
To demonstrate the scale of this issue, here are some statistics from Regis College:
The average woman spends almost 7 years of her life menstruating
In the US, nearly 1 in 5 girls have left school early or skipped school because they did not have access to period products
In India, only 12% of women have access to sanitary products
In Uganda, 28% of girls miss school during menstruation
Evidently, period poverty is a global issue, yet it is constantly overlooked. Girls are forced to miss out on their education simply because of a lack of resources, for an unavoidable bodily process.
The U.S makes an additional $150 million annually, solely from the purchasing of menstrual products. In 27 out of 50 states, there is a “tampon tax” in place because the product is not considered a necessity of life. Menstruation is not a choice, and having the proper sanitation resources during those times should not be an economic burden.
According to UNICEF, poor menstrual hygiene can cause physical health risks and has been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections. Young girls who do not receive an education are more likely to enter child marriages and experience an early pregnancy, malnourishment, domestic violence, and pregnancy complications as a result. Discussions about the female body should not be limited to menstruators, as it is just as important for non-menstruators to understand. As a societal issue, menstruators cannot reduce the stigma amongst themselves; this would mean that only half the population is educated. In order to truly make progress, non-menstruators must be a part of the process as well.
How You Can Help
Normalize conversations about periods. This will help lessen the unwarranted stigma around a biological process.
Support charities and organizations whether it is by donating or spreading their message, organizations will always appreciate help from outside communities.
Continue to educate yourself
Buy your own products from brands that give back
Purchase from brands that give back some brands donate a percentage of their revenue to charities that work to alleviate period poverty
However you choose to help, the important thing is that you do. Access to such products is a human right, but we will never reach our goal without an increasing awareness of the issue. So spread the message, have conversations, and do whatever you can to progress society forward.
Written by Fiona Wu