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Period Poverty: What Is It and What Can We Do?
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Period Poverty: What Is It and What Can We Do?

Period Poverty is about a lack of access to period products due to financial constraints. Many of us, take this access for granted. However, it’s estimated that period poverty impacts over 500 million people worldwide. That’s nearing 10% of the global population. Whilst the conversation (and mission) around period poverty has gathered real pace over the last few years, in 2023 this is still an issue affecting menstruators everywhere.

The affordability of period care products has been hotly debated in recent years thanks to people shining a light on the outrageous tampon tax that treated period care products  as a ‘luxury’. But whilst many countries have finally decided to scrap the tax, there are still many people who are struggling to afford the products they need. 

Who is affected by period poverty? 

Young People 

Imagine feeling too guilty to ask your parents for tampons, pads or cups, because you know it’s already a struggle to buy food and pay for bills. That is the reality for many young people. 

Research has shown that almost a third of menstruators aged between 14 and 21 struggle to afford or access period products, an issue that was exacerbated during the pandemic. The majority of that group also said that they were either too embarrassed to access free products, or had no idea where to get them. 

People Living In Poverty 

For many people, poverty is sadly not something that disappears as you get older. In places like Kenya, where 63% of people live on less than a dollar a day, period poverty is prevalent, with 10% of girls 15 and under sharing that they have resorted to engaging in transactional sex to secure period products - a heartbreaking situation that should not be happening!

The world’s richest countries are not exempt from this issue. In the U.S., According to a 2019 study conducted at St. Louis University, 1 in 5 menstruators struggle to afford menstrual products every month, with 46% of low-income individuals reporting that some months they have to choose between a meal or buying period products. With these startling figures, it’s no surprise that period poverty has been described as a ‘Global Crisis’.

People In Prisons 

If you thought the tampon tax was absurd (because it is), how does not having access to high-quality, affordable period care in prison sound? In 2015, the Correctional Association of New York published a study about reproductive injustice for menstruators in New York state prisons. The results were shocking. About 54% of menstruators in prisons have insufficient period care supplies. But that’s not all. Chandra Bozelko, a woman who spent six years at York Correctional Institution and now blogs about her prison experiences, revealed how menstruators who wear pads in prison will wear the same one for several days because they can’t find a fresh one, and it ends up falling out or no longer sticking to their underwear. 

The fact that many menstruating humans in prisons are not treated with respect during their cycle is a huge problem, and it is extremely humiliating for these inmates to ask a male correctional officer for hygiene products. Making .75 cents a day to buy tampons in prison (which could cost around $5 a pack) just does not add up after considering all the other supplies they are allowed to buy.

People Experiencing Displacement 

There, are, of course, various groups that are even more vulnerable to the effects of period poverty. People experiencing homelessness, or those who have been displaced by war can struggle to not only afford period care products but to have a safe place to access and use them. 

There are so many different ways homeless women and trans men deal with their periods. From socks, plastic bags, and napkins, to rags, shirts and cotton balls, these homeless menstruators are at risk of toxic shock syndrome and other health-related issues. Not only is it a hygiene problem, but a health problem. While donations such as food and clothes are always greatly appreciated in shelters, many shelters lack menstrual products to give out. The irony is that in many homeless shelters, condoms are supplied for free, but period products are not.

The Impact of Period Poverty 

Not being able to look after yourself during your period is bad enough, but the truth is that the impact of period poverty is far-reaching and long-lasting. 


Education is a huge area that is impacted by a lack of access to period care products. In the States, a quarter of girls surveyed said they had missed class because they got their period and didn’t have the products they needed, whilst, in Rwanda, young menstruators are missing up to 50 days of school a year due to period poverty. When a young person’s education is affected, this limits their opportunities later in life, and makes them more likely to remain stuck in a cycle of poverty - so it’s a big one. 


Not having the right period products can also have a ripple effect on our health. People who don’t have products for them to manage their period safely and hygienically are more susceptible to UTIs and reproductive health issues, according to UNICEF.  

Self Esteem 

But it’s not just our physical health that can take a hit when faced with period poverty. The shame around periods coupled with the shame of not being able to afford period care products can knock the confidence and self-esteem of those affected - and the impact on their mental health can be long-lasting. 

What is being done? 

Thanks to the campaigning of charities and activist groups, governments are starting to take notice of the crisis that is period poverty. Countries like Scotland and Catalan have already made bold moves to ensure period products are available for free in schools and other community centres. 

What can you do?

When faced with such a big issue, it’s easy to feel helpless. But the good news is that there are lots you can do as an #EverydayActivist to help end period poverty. 

Sign Petitions 

This is one of the simplest and easiest ways you can lend your support to the ‘End Period Poverty’ mission - and it’s free! At any given time numerous campaigns are going on all over the world, where activist groups are trying to end period poverty and period shame in their communities. Right now you could sign several petitions campaigning for free period products in California, Zambia, Australia and the UK - but keep an eye on and you’ll probably find new petitions to sign every month!

Raise your voice

It’s time to ditch the taboo and get talking.
Keeping menstruation an “on the table” subject helps other women feel more comfortable asking for help, accessing information and exploring their options. It also means that conversations around period poverty come out of the shadows and into the mainstream, which will galvanise even more support!

Raising your voice can mean different things to different people. For some it might be opening up the conversation around period health with their family, for others, it could be taking to the streets and marching with a placard! Do whatever feels right for you, but just know that a bit of bravery and boldness from you could make a difference for another menstruator out there!

Support charities and organisations

There are so many incredible organisations out there collecting and distributing menstrual products to those who can’t afford them. They can continue their good work without financial support - so donating to a charity focused on period poverty is a brilliant thing to do.

Local food banks and homeless shelters are also great places to reach out to and give donations directly. After all, those in need are closer to home than we often think!

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