Period poverty affects millions of women globally. Roughly half of the world’s population is of reproductive age and menstruates every month. It is a natural biological process that anyone should be able to manage hygienically, comfortably and with dignity. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen – this isn’t the case yet. Period poverty isn’t just about affordability. Many women and girls don’t have access to hygienic facilities, or feel unable to manage their periods with dignity – often due to stigma or superstitious or religious dogma around menstruation. Menstruation can take a physical, mental and financial toll on those already struggling to make the ends meet.
Menstrual care is a question that can be placed with the issues of reproductive rights, bodily autonomy and forms of conservatism towards female bodies and sexuality. In fact, it’s part of the larger overall issue of women’s reproductive rights. Data collected from women who live in underprivileged areas around the globe show that women use over 5,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime, based on an average of 38 years of menstruation using 10 to 15 sanitary products on average per cycle across with 12 cycles per year. On average, 1000 – 2000 USD is spent on period management in the life of menstruating women and that covers the bare minimum. This cost includes basic sanitary pads, clothing, and other essential items.
How period poverty impacts women globally?
Period poverty reaches far and wide, having a negative impact not just on girls and women, but society as a whole. Many girls miss out on education because of their period. Almost half of girls have missed an entire day of school. This causes an economic impact through the loss of productivity. As schools and workplaces don’t take into account female menstrual health, despite it affecting a large chunk of the population, honest conversations about menstrual health could help to address these issues. In addition to period poverty, we know periods can be uncomfortable. This also contributes to missing school and sports. But girls and women shouldn’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed about saying why.
Women can also feel prohibited from taking part in certain sports and activities as a result of not having the right menstrual products, self-consciousness or myths. Whilst it is important for anyone menstruating to be able to take part in sport if they wish and to not feel embarrassed about being on their period – pressure to ‘carry on as normal’ as though they weren’t impacted at all by menstruation is often the wrong message. Limited access to menstrual health products can also leave women creating makeshift solutions that are uncomfortable and unsafe. It can also lead to repeated use of products like menstruation pads which can increase the risk of bacterial infections.
For anyone, feeling shame or embarrassment about their body can contribute to low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression. This can be coupled with the stress from the added difficulty of being unable to buy the menstrual health products needed to manage a period. Managing physical symptoms like cramps, headaches and symptoms of PMS is also easier when people feel comfortable talking about their periods. Asking for what they need, be that advice, menstruation products, medication to manage pain or other support is important and should be encouraged.
What can be done to address period poverty?
Addressing period poverty can be complicated as it’s both an economic issue and one perpetuated by long-held cultural beliefs and customs. Ending period poverty requires better education on menstruation but also the support of government, health and public bodies. A great deal of work is being done in this area by ZamZam Foundation and individuals supporting us.
By donating 1000 USD, you can support a woman for a lifetime of provision of menstrual hygiene products. For further clarity and transparency, while maintaining the anonymity of the individual funded, you will be given access to a personal dashboard where you can view the progress and utilization of funds. You can also contribute to our global period education and awareness centers. Moreover, a 30% discount for donors will be provided for a lifetime on the premium biodegradable menstrual products.
There are lots of other ways that you can get involved and make a difference to help end period poverty. Here are some:
- Choose menstruation products from brands that support ending period poverty
- Donate to other causes
- Attend marches and events
- Sign petitions
- Donate period products
- Educate yourself on the issues and listen to other stories and experiences
Together, we believe that we can make a difference to end period poverty.