In a nutshell, ‘Period Poverty’ is about a lack of access to period products due to financial constraints. For many of us, we take this access for granted. Whether it’s popping to the shops to buy tampons and pads every month, or investing in reusable period care products - the majority of the population are lucky enough not to have to worry about getting our hands on the products we need, when we need them.
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 2022 this is still an issue affecting menstruators everywhere.
Who is affected by period poverty?
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. Add that to the fact that periods are still a taboo subject for many families and you have a situation where young menstruators are struggling to get access to the most basic of period care products.
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.
Those 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 in order to secure period products - a heartbreaking situation that should not be happening!
The world’s richest countries are not exempt from this issue. Recent studies indicate that in America, 11% of people are living on or below the poverty line. In Europe, that number is almost double at around 21% - with women more affected than men. With the after effects of the pandemic and rising energy prices, it’s likely that these figures will continue to increase - as will period poverty.
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’.
Those Experiencing Displacement
There, are, of course, various groups that are 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. The irony is that in many homeless shelters, condoms are supplied for free, but period products are not.
In the UK, organisations like Period Poverty UK partner with homeless charities to ensure period care products reach those in need. They also work with humanitarian charities to supply period products to refugees. who are often so desperate that they resort to tearing off pieces of fabric from their clothes to use as makeshift pads.
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. 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 activists 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. Other governments have taken steps to make period products more affordable - with the UK banning the ‘tampon tax’ last year (although we are still waiting for England to follow in Scotland’s footsteps and make period products free for all!).
What can you do?
When faced with such a big issue, it’s easy to feel helpless. But the good news is that there is lots you can do as an #EverydayActivist to help end period poverty.
This is one of the simplest and easiest ways you can lend your support to the ‘End Period Poverty’ mission - and it’s totally free! At any given time there are numerous campaigns going on all over the world, where activists groups are trying to end period poverty and period shame in their communities. Right now you could sign a number of petitions campaigning for free period products in California, Zambia, Australia and the UK - but keep an eye on Change.org and you’ll probably find new petitions to sign every month!
Raise your voice
It’s time to ditch the taboo and get talking.
By keeping menstruation an “on the table” subject it helps other women feel more comfortable to ask for help, access information and explore their options. It also means that conversations around period poverty come out of the shadows and in to the mainstream, which will galnaise 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 tothose who can’t afford them. They cant continute their good work without financial support - so donating to a charity focused on period poverty is a brilliant thing to do. Here are a few of our favourites from around the world.
Bloody Good Period
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!