For most women, access to menstrual hygiene products is a privilege that we tend to take for granted. When we run out of our feminine product of choice during our cycle, it’s easy for us to drive a few miles to our nearest convenience/grocery store and replenish our supply so that we can feel prepared through our period. However, for many girls and women worldwide, basic menstrual products are completely inaccessible. This is an epidemic that spans worldwide and affects millions of people a day, and is most prevalent in US schools, where young, low-income girls often have no choice but to stay home from classes due to lack of access to proper menstrual products.
Why We Need To Discuss Period Poverty
In the lives of low-income women, the lack of access to affordable menstrual products is a disheartening reality. The “pink tax” on women’s hygiene products, which is currently still upheld in 34 states, has a larger impact on those who are barely getting by financially as it is. While ending the pink tax and other forms of gender-discriminatory pricing worldwide would certainly be beneficial to those who are struggling, it won’t single-handedly make menstrual products affordable for everyone. Too many women have to make daily choices between purchasing things like groceries and purchasing menstrual products - a name brand pack of 42 pads at the average drug store costs around $10, and many poor families are left with the crushing choice of whether to spend their last $10 on food or on having a clean and safe period.
A Global Crisis
Period poverty is not just a women’s issue; this crisis has an impact on millions worldwide, and disproportionately affects those with special needs, those living in conflict-affected areas, or those living in the aftermath of natural disasters. One of the main causes of period poverty is a lack of menstrual education and an ongoing stigma surrounding menstruation. In developing countries like Nepal, women are banished to menstruation huts during their cycle, and the process of menstruation is still viewed as dirty and impure. This stigma is still as alive in the United States as it is in developing nations. From a young age, women are taught that periods are dirty and shameful, and we grow up learning to conceal our tampons in our sleeves when going to the restroom, constantly check our clothes for period stains, and do anything and everything required to completely conceal the fact that we even menstruate at all.
Know The Risks
The health risks that exist for women facing period poverty can be extremely detrimental. Poor menstrual hygiene can be linked to reproductive health issues and urinary tract infections. Young girls who are forced to skip school due to lack of access to feminine products are put at risk of not finishing their education, which makes them more likely to enter child marriages, experience an early pregnancy, become malnourished, or experience domestic violence. For these reasons and countless more, we need to make our voices heard in the conversation surrounding period poverty and advocate for those who are in need of accessible period products.
Here’s What You Can Do To Help:
- Fight the Pink Tax - California recently enacted a two year ban on the Pink Tax, and Ohio and Connecticut recently completely eliminated the tax. If you live in a state that still uses gender discriminatory pricing practices, speak up by contacting lawmakers and representatives and use the hashtag #axthepinktax in social media posts to bring awareness to the issue!
- Donate to the cause - Period.org, Action Aid, and Bloody Good Period are just some of the countless organizations that provide menstrual products to women in need. If you have the financial means to do so, support these organizations and ones like them in any way you can!
- Push menstrual education and change the dialogue surrounding periods - Taking away the societally created and imposed taboos surrounding menstruation is perhaps one of the biggest ways we can fight period poverty, and also one of the most simple. Normalizing periods in everyday conversation, being unashamed about the process of menstruation, and owning your period can help to remove the stigmas surrounding it. Using period products to stay sanitary during your cycle is as natural as using toothpaste to brush your teeth or soap to wash your hands, and if we reframe the conversation in this way, we have the opportunity to create change on a global scale.
Here at MIA, we are strong believers in the right to a safe, clean, and affordable cycle for all women. What are your thoughts on period poverty, the Pink Tax, and equality when it comes to menstruation? We encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments below!