Period poverty: why is it necessary to talk about it?

What is Period Poverty?

Women comprise more than half of the world; menstrual issues can no longer be ignored. It is high time that period poverty becomes everybody’s business. Period poverty is defined as a lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene facilities, waste management, and necessary education regarding reproductive health issues. Period Poverty takes a toll on the mental and physical health of the person menstruating. That makes it a double-edged sword and makes addressing period poverty a matter of urgency. The stigma that shrouds periods prevents individuals from talking about it. Lack of data and limited research is a challenge that further exacerbates the issue. There are cultural, social, political and economic barriers to let everyone have access to menstrual products, education and a proper sanitation system.

How is it a problem?

Many women without access to menstrual products improvise with old blankets, chicken feathers, old rags, newspapers, mud, and even cow dung. Odors and leakages become a challenge and for school girls, these negative experiences of menstruating can lead to discomfort, distraction, absenteeism and even dropping out of school. School drop-outs have difficulty entering the job market and if they do, they find themselves in low pay jobs without security, predisposing them to economic and social poverty. In line with sustainability is the issue of environmentally friendly products. Our world has a plastic problem that does not decompose and ends up polluting the oceans. Our water bodies are drowning and climate change is inevitable. There is a need for reusable environmental-friendly menstrual products that are also budget-friendly.

Causes of Period Poverty

  • One of the major issues that have fueled the issue at hand is the lack of access to hygiene products due to a range of varying factors.
  • People living in underprivileged areas around the globe can barely afford three meals a day. The sanitary products generally being sold in the market are so expensive that they cannot afford buying them.
  • The element of fear and embarrassment around buying menstrual products is still quite prevalent in certain cultures around the world. 
  • Culturally related alienation is still quite common among the remote areas of the world where the women have to live in separate rooms or cabins formed to accommodate them while they bleed. 
  • Weather conditions among a few areas are so harsh that it does ot allow the women to follow some hygiene regimen while they are menstruating. 
  • Loneliness–a culmination of two or more all the other forms of lack of access, affordability and fear or embarrassment is one of the contributing, if not largest, factors leading to the period poverty. 
  • Shame also prevents people from talking about menstrual issues including access to pads, the taxing of these products, and even the ingredients used e.g., dioxin that is harmful to health.
  • The right language to use becomes an additional challenge too since not all women menstruate and many people who are not women menstruate.

What can we do about it?

  1. Start and support initiatives that promote access to menstruation products and awareness about menstruation, reproductive health issues, and hygiene practices.
  1. Providing facilities that enable menstruating people to care for themselves during menstruation and ensures access to water, sanitation, and waste services.
  2. Accord women the opportunity to receive a diagnosis for menstrual cycle disorders and access health care.
  3. Ensure a positive and supportive environment that allows menstruating people to participate in all aspects of life, going to school and work, sport.
  4. Invite people engaged in addressing period poverty to give talks and normalize menstruation.
  5. Employ zero tolerance to dirty jokes about menstruation.

We, at ZamZam Foundation have taken it upon our shoulders to not rest until we educate every woman who lacks the access to hygiene products. We are running awareness programs on a monthly basis where we distribute the products for free and educate women about their reproductive health. Moreover, we have an on-going campaign where you can donate and fund a woman for the lifetime supplies of menstrual pads. For more information on our causes and campaigns, visit our website.