Updated: Mar 2
Hello, lovely readers!
This week’s blog post is about a social issue that I feel is important to discuss, and that is period poverty. You may or may not have heard of this term before, but it’s something that affects many menstruators across the globe. Keep reading to learn more about this issue and what we as a community can do to support those who are affected.
What is period poverty?
Period poverty is defined as the lack of access to period products, sanitation facilities, and menstruation education. According to Alliance for Period Supplies.org, 1 in 4 people cannot afford to buy menstruation products due to their low income. This means that they have to use whatever they have access to, which is likely to be washcloths, paper towels, toilet paper, and even diapers—which puts those affected at a higher risk for infections such as bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infections. Due to the lack of period products being available, menstruators sometimes have to miss school, work, and any other activities. In addition, period poverty can negatively affect one’s mental health because it’s stressful not having the proper sanitary products while needed—not to mention it’s uncomfortable. This isn’t just an issue that’s happening in developing countries—it’s a also problem in the United States. According to research, it is estimated that there are 16.9 million people who experience periods in poverty in the United States.
What causes period poverty?
Having little to no income can cause period poverty, which is why lower-income individuals are mostly affected. One may think, “Well, you can get pads for cheap at a dollar store or other general store.” While that statement is true, the reality for many low-income families is that sometimes they have to choose between buying food or getting period products. So if a family only has $20 to spend on a few groceries and other necessities such as gas or other things, they might skip out on getting pads or tampons.
Why is it important for us to combat period poverty?
Menstruation is a biological process that individuals cannot control. Everyone who has a period should have access to sanitary products—and they shouldn’t have to miss school and work because they don’t have those necessities. Just like we work together as a community to fight hunger, homelessness, etc., we should also be working to end period poverty for those who don’t have access to menstruation products, education, and waste management. Basic sanitation is something everyone should have a right to.
Ways that we can help end period poverty:
1. End the stigma on menstruation.
For years, menstruation has been made out to be something that’s filthy and embarrassing—this misconception can negatively affect the self-esteem of those who have periods. I personally remember being ashamed to have a period when I was a child because I had to bleed every month when my friends who were mostly male didn’t. I felt dirty during that time because that’s what society was made me believe. I think we should educate ourselves more on the actual facts about menstruation, debunk the myths that are attached, and have open conversations about it in order to normalize this process. We should also eradicate the use of code names for periods such as Code Red, Bloody Mary, etc., and use the correct terminology---menstruation isn’t anything to be secretive about, so these names shouldn’t be used. When people (men and women) are comfortable discussing periods, the wheels are set in motion to eliminate the stigma.
2. Have period products available in public places.
If you’re a business owner, consider putting sanitary products in your bathrooms. Periods can come unexpectedly, and if it happens to your customer/client who isn’t prepared, your gesture could be a life-saver for them. If you are an employee, talk to your boss about making menstruation products available for the public. If you are a student, connect with your administrators and see if period products can be put in the bathrooms at school/college.
3. Advocate for the removal of the tampon tax.
Tampon tax refers to the sales tax placed on menstruation products such as tampons and pads. In most states, period products are still being taxed as luxury items, making it harder for low-income people to afford them. I think many can agree that having menstruation isn’t a luxury, it’s a biological process that many cannot control. That said, menstruation products should be tax-exempt, as they are a necessity. There are online organizations that advocate for menstrual equity, such as periodequity.org if you want to join the fight and take action.
4. Donate to organizations that distribute period products to those in need.
There are many organizations worldwide that work really hard to
get menstruation products like pads and tampons to low-income areas, such as Alliance for Period Supplies. If you’re interested in donating to this cause, search for organizations that give sanitary products to those in need, or consider sending a donation to your local resource center.
5. Host your own fundraiser for sanitation products.
Hosting a fundraiser for menstrual products will help those who are in need within your community—it’s a great way to fight period poverty. If you want to learn more about hosting a fundraiser there are resources available online that can help you get started. You can also partner with organizations to help raise funds. Consider making a request that donors bring organic pads and tampons; they are better for the body and for the environment.
To that end...
Period poverty is a social issue that affects an estimated 500 million people across the world. If we have an opportunity to do something about it, we should. The situation won’t change overnight, but I believe that we can improve it— any progress is better than none.
Please feel free to email me if you want more information on period poverty, or if you need help with finding resources in your area, I’d be more than happy to help. Have a wonderful day!