Today we are using our platform to bring awareness to and discuss a global human rights issue that affects women and girls everywhere: period poverty.
Last week on May 28th, it was Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD). MHD is a global advocacy platform that brings together the voices and actions of non-profits, government agencies, the private sectors, the media, and individuals in order to promote good menstrual health and hygiene for all women and girls.
In honour of Menstrual Hygiene Day being last week, in today's blog post we'll be discussing Period Poverty, an issue that affects women and girls all over the world. With this post, we hope to educate and bring awareness to this unfair reality, in order to help end period poverty and support women and girls in need.
Important note: We would like to acknowledge that when we talk about menstruation and women and girls in this post, it is essential to keep in mind that not all women/girls menstruate, and not all those who menstruate are women/girls.
Let's dive in!
What is period poverty?
Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and waste management. Period poverty essentially means when an individual cannot afford to buy hygienic menstrual products or access safe and hygienic means to take care of themselves, which results in them resorting to unhygienic means to manage their periods. Period poverty is a global health crisis that affects women and girls in all parts of this world.
As the organization Global Citizens puts it, women and girls who menstruate are kept from basic activities, like eating certain foods, or socializing, all over the world because of inaccessibility and stigma. There is a cultural shame attached to menstruation as well as shortage of resources that stop women and girls from being able to attend school and work every day.
Access to menstrual products and hygiene is a human right, and being able to properly manage your period is a necessity.
Why are period poverty and menstrual health important topics?
Poor menstrual hygiene that is caused by lack of education, taboos and stigma, limited access to hygienic menstrual products and poor sanitation infrastructure undermines the educational opportunities, health and overall social status of women and girls around the world. These are important topics to discuss because period poverty keeps millions of women and girls from reaching their full potential.
The cultural shame that is attached to menstruation is a result of many things, including lack of proper education about menstrual health and hygiene for all individuals. Menstruation is still viewed by many people as "impure" or "dirty". But this is far from the truth. It is extremely important to continue discussions around period poverty and menstrual health in order to destigmatize them.
It is also important to discuss these topics because the more we talk about them and bring awareness, the more chance we have to enact change. Like we said above, period poverty includes a lack of access to menstrual products like tampons or pads, but also lack of access to toilets and hand washing facilities, affordability and more. These may not seem like issues impacting women and girls in a country like Canada or the United States, but they do.
Women and girls who live in shelters, or are homeless, are low-income, and women who are in prison, etc., all are affected by period poverty. In fact, federal prisons in the U.S. only made menstrual products free just 3 years ago in 2018. Adding to this, the pink tax and prices of menstrual products (take into account medication for cramps and other side effects as well) leave many women and girls choosing between buying these products or using that money for other needs like food, transportation, shelter, clothing, etc. These are just some variables that make it difficult for women and girls to manage their periods properly and safely, but many people often don't take these things into account when discussing menstruation management, so the conversation must continue.
How can we help end period poverty?
The current solutions in place for menstrual health and period poverty primarily focus on providing access to safe and affordable products and materials. Although this is a great step that needs to be taken, products alone won't solve the problem.
Period poverty encompasses many needs that must be met, like adequate access to toilets, hand washing, and waste management. We must find solutions for these variables to ensure women and girls all over the world have safe and hygienic means of managing their periods. This may seem out of reach but the best way we can all help to end period poverty is by starting and/or continuing the conversation.
A major factor still impacting period poverty is the stigma surrounding menstrual health that we mentioned earlier. Menstrual health needs to be normalized, we need to be able to have comfortable conversations about menstruation as a normal biological process - not some hidden secret. In addition, women and girls need better information and basic menstruation education to understand and manage their period with confidence and dignity.
In the future, we hope that menstruation can be easily accessed and affordable. We also hope information is known to everyone around the world so the stigma surrounding periods ends, and we can witness a major cultural shift around periods and period poverty in our lifetime.
You can follow us at @untanglemoney over on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to see more content about fighting for women's rights, supporting gender equality, and empowering women financially. We also recommend you check out period.org for information about the global campaign against period poverty and how you can get involved. You can also check out our other blog posts here!
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