Period Poverty Challenges Period poverty challenges women worldwide because many women cannot afford or do not have access to menstrual products. Whether in the United States, Ireland, Great Britain or South Africa, many women struggle with period poverty and need resources to properly manage their menstruation.

Period Poverty Challenges in Africa

According to ActionAid, one in 10 girls in Africa do not attend school because they lack access to menstrual products or private hygiene facilities at school. Moreover, 50% of schoolgirls in Kenya do not have access to menstrual products. In addition, community stigmas and taboos about menstruation lead to girls experiencing emotional and mental problems. Girls and women in these situations often feel the need to hide their periods because of the shame associated with menstruation. Understanding the anthropological impacts and possible solutions to period poverty reveals beneficial changes that could help women.

Anthropological Perspective

According to the anthropological perspective of menstruation, menstruation is the biological experience of young girls that notifies them of their body’s transition to womanhood. In a world with more than 300 million women menstruating per day, menstruation is still not openly discussed. In places where menstruation is considered taboo or dirty, women tend to have negative perceptions of themselves. This encourages secrecy and shame. Research suggests that menstruation as a topic of private discussion is universal. Women and girls are expected to deal with their menstruation in silence and invisibility.

Period Poverty Interventions

Sophia Bay, researcher of “Moving Toward a Holistic Menstrual Hygiene Management: An Anthropological Analysis of Menstruation and Practices in Western and Non-Western Societies,” proposes interventions that go beyond the issue of accessing menstrual products. Bay addresses the social stigma and shame as well. The first intervention recognizes the issue of access to menstrual products and the second addresses efforts to destigmatize the topic of menstruation.

When girls in lower-income areas have access to period products regularly, their risk of anxiety and fear is drastically reduced. Additionally, access to sanitation such as handwashing facilities and clean toilets is important to improve hygiene. Increasing privacy is also vital to sanitation as this will prevent young girls from improperly discarding used menstrual products. Lastly, puberty education needs to be prioritized. Many women do not know enough about menstruation. A lack of education about biological changes negatively impacts how girls see themselves and menstruation.

Qrate Workshops

Individuals and organizations are working to change the stigma surrounding periods and address period poverty challenges. Candice Chirwa, the founder of the organization Qrate, currently works with communities in parts of South Africa to educate people about menstruation. She is a passionate menstruation activist, speaker and scholar who uses artistic techniques to encourage conversation about periods and period poverty. Visual art, dancing and acting offer an opportunity for communities to discuss a usually challenging topic in a light-hearted way.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Chirwa explains that the girls play games to become more confident in themselves during the workshops. For example, one of these games requires the girls to pretend to explain different menstrual products to an alien. This helps them learn more about the products and become more comfortable talking about menstruation. Chirwa explains that the game also lets her know whether the girls are gaining the menstrual knowledge they need.

Ending Period Poverty

Facilitating workshops for young girls in South Africa has shown promise. Furthermore, understanding period poverty from an anthropological perspective offers explanations for the negative cultural stigma around periods. Using the work of researchers, making period products accessible, ensuring menstrual education and taking action to combat the stigma work hand-in-hand to alleviate period poverty.

Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr

Women in AngolaAccording to the World Bank, Angola has a ranking of 0.36 on the Human Capital Index, which is below the sub-Saharan average. This means that the earning potential of a child born in Angola today is 36% of what it “could have been with complete education and full health.” Research indicates that girls and women are often disproportionately affected by poverty. In April 2021, the World Bank agreed to a $250 million Investment Project Financing in order to support Angola. This project aims to empower girls and women in Angola and address educational poverty in order to increase Angola’s human capital.

Women and Poverty in Angola

Data indicates that more than 30% of Angolan women were married or in a union before the age of 18. Furthermore, in 2016, for women 15-49 years old, almost 26% reported violence by a current or previous intimate partner within the last year. In addition, less than half of impoverished women older than 15 are employed. Moreover, 4.8% more adult women than men are severely food insecure. While women have made some strides in politics, making up nearly 30% of the seats in national parliament, less than 30% of women hold managerial positions. The contribution made by the World Bank will assist Angola to rectify the gender disparities between male and female citizens and empower girls and women to rise out of poverty.

Action From Angola

The National Development Plan that Angola implemented in 2015 set out to ensure equality between men and women in economic, social, cultural and political aspects. Further, the primary goals of the plan focused on addressing occupational segregation and rectifying the lack of representation of women in positions of power. So far, several national campaigns have been launched to promote gender equality and women’s rights. These campaigns include violence prevention and breaking down misogynistic traditions like child marriages.

Angola also implemented several policies to achieve gender equality and empower women. The National Development Plan 2018-2022 continues these commitments, with a significant focus on raising awareness of the importance of gender equality and preventing gender-based violence. The support of the World Bank will help to further the work that has already begun.

The World Bank strongly believes in keeping young girls in school. The organization supports the empowerment of young women to improve health conditions and end cycles of poverty. By ensuring the education of girls, the likelihood of child marriages and adolescent pregnancies reduces. This is a critical goal during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many schools to shut down and accelerated the dropout rates of young girls.

Components of the Project

The project consists of three components. The first aspect centers on improving sexual and reproductive health services and increasing community knowledge in this regard in order to encourage the use of these services. The second component will finance 3,000 new classrooms and offer support “to improve teaching and learning outcomes.” Finally, the last component relates to “efficient monitoring and management of the project and supports research to inform education policy development.”

One of the keys to the success of any major project is proper financing and the World Bank has just helped Angola take a critical step in the right direction. The $250 million worth of financing will improve the lives of many women in Angola by focusing on education and empowerment.

Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr

education for girls in MozambiqueMozambique is one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world but it has made economic progress in the past three decades as its income per capita rose from $373 in 1995 to $1,136 in 2017. However, Mozambique still lags behind most other countries when it comes to the crucial topic of gender equality, specifically in education. New funding from the World Bank seeks to address these gender discrepancies and improve education for girls in Mozambique.

Girls’ Education in Mozambique

There are several measurements of educational attainment by gender in Mozambique and none present an optimistic picture. About 60% of men in Mozambique are literate, as of the latest measurement, in comparison to only about 28% of women. This is largely due to high dropout rates for girls in primary school. More than 50% of girls in Mozambique drop out by the fifth grade and this drops to 11% by the secondary level of education. Solely 1% of women in Mozambique attend college, and once they graduate, their job prospects are grim.

In 2017, less than 4% of women in Mozambique had salaried jobs and only one quarter were landowners holding official rights. Due to these facts, many women find themselves forced to marry early in order to gain any financial stability. About 48% of women in Mozambique get married by age 18, most of whom have long since dropped out of school. This lack of education comes with increased health risks as the prevalence of HIV is three times higher among young women than young men. Furthermore, researchers estimate more than half of Mozambican women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime and believe it is justified.

The World Bank’s Efforts

Acknowledging the bleak state of girls’ education in Mozambique, the World Bank approved new funding for a project addressing low learning outcomes for girls in primary school and low retention rates for girls in upper levels of education. This funding includes grants of $160 million from the International Development Agency and $139 million from the Global Partnership for Education for a total of $299 million. The project will address the first problem of low learning outcomes by building 100 new preschool facilities in rural areas that lack quality education resources. It will also train and support teachers in grade levels one to three and expand children’s access to learning materials to improve reading skills for girls in primary school.

In order to address the second problem of low retention rates, the project will seek to create safe school environments for girls, increase the number of lower secondary schools across the country and make general improvements to the infrastructure of schools in order to retain more students. Furthermore, the funding will provide sexual and reproductive health programs and gender-based violence mitigation programs in an effort to decrease early marriages, HIV infections and domestic violence. The project will also implement mentorship programs for girls and expand the scope of virtual learning facilities, which will likely continue to be incredibly important education resources even in a post-COVID-19 world.

Potential Impact

Hopes are high that this project, with increased funding from the World Bank, will have a positive effect on the education of girls in Mozambique. Many rural families with children will have access to quality preschool facilities for the first time and girls in lower levels of primary school will have more resources to help them become literate. Girls in upper primary and secondary schools will also gain access to improved resources and revamped school infrastructures. New sexual and reproductive health programs have the potential to decrease the number of young women who are HIV positive and mentorship programs will build relationships among young women and provide activities and resources for school-aged girls.

Besides the direct and immediate effects the project will have on girls’ education in Mozambique, the country as a whole stands to benefit from the results of increased learning readiness and retention rates in the years and decades to come. According to the World Bank, increasing the percentage of women with secondary levels of education in a country by 1% boosts annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percentage points. Furthermore, one additional year of education can increase a woman’s personal income by up to 25%. Girls with basic levels of education are three times less likely to contract HIV and children born to women with basic levels of education are twice as likely to survive past age 5.

The Future of Mozambique

Mozambican girls and women have suffered from poor educational attainment due to a lack of opportunities, high dropout rates in primary school and low retention rates in upper levels of education. However, the new funding from the World Bank has the potential to improve girls’ education in Mozambique from preschool through secondary school by building facilities, expanding access to resources, enhancing infrastructure, implementing sexual health programs and introducing mentorship activities for young women. Increasing educational attainment for women has a ripple effect on their incomes, their families and their countries. A government choosing to improve girls’ education makes a sound investment in the country’s future.

– Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr

7 Organizations that Fight for Gender Equality
In order to alleviate global poverty, it is imperative to fight for gender equality. The President of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development said, “When you invest in a man, you invest in an individual. When you invest in a woman, you invest in a community.” Women all over the world continue to struggle for equality in the workplace. Additionally, women often bear the burden of completing domestic responsibilities and unpaid labor.

Poverty Among Women

Poverty affects women especially. Women do not have the same opportunities as men in receiving a quality education, work and owning property. Thus, their ability to be productive citizens often has severe limits. Many young girls learn to prioritize domestic responsibilities over education. Consequently, women are often illiterate and unable to find employment. This hinders the fight for gender equality and the economic development of a country as well. Moreover, global poverty will prevail until the world achieves gender equality.

Fortunately, many organizations fight for gender equality within their respective countries. Here are seven organizations that strive to empower women and alleviate poverty.

7 Organizations that Fight for Gender Equality

  1. The Korea Women’s Associations United: This is an umbrella organization that aims to achieve gender equality, democracy and peaceful reunification in the Korean peninsula by facilitating solidarity and collectivism. It played an important role in establishing the “basic framework for government policies on women, including the creation of the Ministry of Gender Equality and the adoption of a [gender-responsive] budget.”
  2. The Akshara Foundation: This Foundation works to improve access to education and enhance social consciousness in India by providing scholarships and capacity-building workshops to disadvantaged young women. Its main objective is to break the cycle of gender equality and poverty. Additionally, its Youth for Change program teaches young men and women the importance of gender equality for all.
  3. The Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative: This organization fights for gender equality by empowering young women in Nigeria via a uniform platform of advocacy. The platform resolves social issues and eradicates inequalities at grass root levels for policy-level changes. Furthermore, it provides skill and leadership training for adolescent boys and girls. Additionally, the Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative conducts research on gender-based violence.
  4. The Foundation for Studies and Research on Women: This Argentina-based Foundation has developed programs, projects and other activities concerning political participation, leadership, teenage pregnancy, violence against women and comprehensive sex education. The Foundation for Studies and Research on Women partners with local municipalities, universities and other NGOs to promote and teach its research through its extensive programs.
  5. The Pratthanadee Foundation: This Foundation provides mentoring and career guidance in Thailand. It successfully reaches over 3,000 undereducated and economically underprivileged women and girls in central Bangkok and rural Ubon Ratchathani each year. The Pratthanadee Foundation aims to build confidence in young women from low-income regions across Thailand. Additionally, the organization recently launched a new program to teach young women how to create and act upon their future aspirations.
  6. The Network of Young People for Gender Equality: This Portuguese nonprofit fights for gender equality and promotes women’s rights through informational activities, education, lobbying and research. Furthermore, this organization falls under the Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities for Youth (SALTO-YOUTH). It is also a part of the European Commission’s Training Strategy.
  7. Voices Against Violence: This organization is an informal learning program for boys and girls in Australia. The United Nations and the World Association of Girls Guides and Girl Scouts developed this program. Additionally, the initiative works to help young people understand violence, abuse and relationships. Voices Against Violence works in Australia under Girl Guides Australia to empower young women to be confident and responsible community members.

Looking Ahead

These seven organizations strive to empower women, fight for gender equality and improve the economic development of countries. Providing girls and women with tools to succeed will improve work productivity and decrease education gaps and gender-based violence.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Education in India, What You Need to KnowIn the fight against global poverty, women’s education in India is overlooked as a stimulant of change. Similarly, gender equality is a significant issue that prevails in India today. As a result of the country’s patriarchal structure, women continue to struggle to gain equal opportunities for success.

Women’s Rights in India

Throughout India’s long history, patriarchal and religious practices have greatly affected women’s rights. Misogynistic practices and ideas limit educational opportunities for women. Consequently, the reassertion of harmful gender roles is prevalent. 23 million girls drop out of school every year because communities are unwilling to provide proper feminine sanitation. This lack of women’s education hinders India’s economic and social growth.

Women also often take up domestic, unpaid labor because employers feel they are unqualified for employment. On average, women work six hours of unpaid domestic labor per day while men work 30 minutes of unpaid labor. This discrepancy severely limits women’s educational opportunities and ability to obtain employment. It also reinforces the belief that women are unable to provide for themselves and cannot actively contribute to the economy.

Women’s Education in India

Having equal access to education is crucial to alleviating poverty. According to the World Bank, countries with limited educational opportunities for women lose $15-$30 trillion in predicted lifetime earnings. Providing education for women helps strengthen female autonomy and allows them to contribute to the national economy.

Furthermore, educated women are less likely to marry young. According to The Tribune, women’s education could lead up to 60% fewer women getting pregnant under the age of 17. Educated women also have more opportunities to achieve higher socioeconomic status due to increased career avenues. By educating women and promoting gender equality, women are able to more confidently enter the workforce. Education is considered to be one of the best catalysts for sustainable growth within any country.

3 Organizations Promoting Women’s Education

Many organizations, including Pratham, Girl’s Who Code and Educate Girls Bond are fighting against global poverty by emphasizing the importance of gender equality and women’s education in India.

  1. Pratham: Founded in 1995, Pratham is an organization designed to improve education for children in Mumbai. Since then, it has grown in size and effectiveness. The organization seeks to provide necessary resources to educators in India, increasing the quality of education. Pratham has become well-established within the country’s educational system as an organization that developed testing programs for state governments and local communities. Pratham focuses on the implementation of grassroots initiatives and sustainable growth within local communities to educate children who are not receiving an adequate education. The organization makes yearly reports public for people to track their progress. In the year 2018, Pratham improved gender equality and education for 15.7 million children in India.
  2. Girls Who Code: Girls Who Code is an international organization that aims to provide opportunities for women to learn about and obtain specialized skills in computer science. Though the organization functions in many countries, its Indian branch is one of the most successful. After-school clubs and summer immersion programs are able to teach young girls valuable technical skills in a short period of time. Today, women hold only 26% of computer science employment positions. Girls Who Code acknowledges this and works to provide education for women to thrive in this field. The organization also provides scholarships to recognize students who excel in the programs. As of 2019, the organization has provided education for 300,000 girls at their camps.
  3. Educate Girls Bond: Educate Girls Bond is a Development Impact Bond that utilizes finances from independent investors to create new opportunities for girls’ education. As a part of this goal, the organization has created 166 schools in Rajasthan, North India. Educate Girls tackles gender inequality by addressing it as a social problem and showing its positive, social impact. The organization promotes gender equality by providing education for young girls throughout India. In just the first year, 44% of the targeted girls successfully enrolled in schools. This compels independent investors to continue their financial support while also attracting new investors to take part in this positive change.

Women’s education in India is often overlooked in the fight against poverty. However, promoting gender equality and providing equal access to education empowers women and boosts their socioeconomic status. Today, more women in India are able to contribute to the economy in ways that fight against poverty.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

Greek Roma
In Greece, tensions remain high between citizens of Greek descent and the Greek Roma. The Romani people, a historically disadvantaged and impoverished community, are spread throughout Europe and the world. Originating from India, the Roma migrated to Europe around the ninth century C.E. They have since built homes and lives for generations in countries such as Greece, but nevertheless continue to face ostracism and persecution.

History of Problems

In Greece specifically, tensions have risen between the Romani and non-Romani Greeks since the economic crisis in 2009. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Taso Lagos, professor at the University of Washington School of International Studies and researcher of the conditions of the Roma in Greece, said that for non-Romani Greeks, the unemployment rate at the time was “as high as 30%,” but for the Roma, “went up to 60%.”

Ten years after the crisis, the Romani people in Greece still face extreme poverty. A recent staggering report showed that while approximately 20% of the general Greek population is at risk for poverty, the same is true for nearly 100% of the Greek Roma.

According to Professor Lagos, there are 351 Roma settlements throughout Greece. In these settlements, many Roma “live in tents where [they] have no running water, no central heating,” and “no indoor plumbing.” Some also live in permanent housing such as caravans, but conditions there are also frequently bleak.

In the early 2000s, the Greek government set out with a plan to improve conditions for the Roma, but many say that these efforts were unsuccessful and that most communities are in the same conditions as before.

Causes of Poverty

There is an ongoing debate over what causes this vicious cycle of poverty affecting the Roma. Many people attribute it to a problem of wide-spread lack of education. More than 90% of Roma children in Greece do not attend pre-school or kindergarten. Slightly less than 50% of Roma children will never receive any formal schooling.

In the case of Romani girls, especially, education is a primary concern. Many are married as teenagers and are expected to run households. Therefore they are unable to finish high school. Others exit the school system early due to perceived dangers and stereotypes Romani people hold about the general Greek community. Professor Lagos explained that many Roma girls do not finish high school because “their parents regard Greek schools as denizens of vice and licentiousness.”

Further, the Romani children who do attend school are frequently the victims of bullying. Sometimes the early recipients of prejudice, these children endure stereotypes that they are dirty, drug-users, or thieves. These perceptions and stereotypes run deep in both communities. They continue to add to the problems affecting the wellbeing of all Greeks.

In one instance, a young girl was taken from her family when her caretakers were accused of kidnapping her. This proved to be false through DNA evidence. But many Roma continued to receive backlash and criticism from the general population following the event.

Signs of Progress

Years later, there remains ongoing misunderstanding and lack of communication between the two groups. However, some believe that there is hope for improving relations between non-Roma and Roma. This will improve other conditions for the Romani people.

Recent subjects inspiring calls to action for the Greek Roma include:

  • Health and COVID-19: As the virus continues to spread throughout Greece, the Roma are at a greater risk for infection, often lacking access to clean water and sanitation practices. Many cite the pandemic as being a primary example of the need for better healthcare and living conditions for the Roma.
  • Education: Teacher training programs that are focused on the education of Roma students with respect and understanding of their unique struggles and adversity have grown in popularity in Greece. These programs encourage the safety and wellbeing of children while in school and destigmatize Roma students.
  • Integration: The EU funded a program to last from 2014-2020 in which part of the proceeds (totaling approximately .8 billion Euros) would be designated to helping integrate the Roma community into greater Greek society, combatting social exclusion. As around half of Greek Romani people live in the margins of Greek society, this is especially important to influence all other aspects of improvement.

Another group that is affecting positive change for the Greek Roma is the Panhellenic Association of Greek Roma. This organization, which began in 2007, has afforded over 50 Roma people grants. These grants help them establish businesses, connect community members with social and emotional support and provide legal support to those struggling with housing.

Professor Lagos spoke on the importance of communication between the Roma and non-Roma of Greece. He argued that it is critical “to institutionalize community dialogue between regular people”. This, he said, “would have a huge impact.”

Aradia Webb
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in PanamaPanama — the narrow bridge of land that connects North and South America. The tropical country is renowned for its natural beauty and diverse plant, animal and bird life. Yet, all that sparkles, is not glitter. Panama’s economy is highly unequal and there’s a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty in Panama is as much of a prominent feature of the country as its landscape.

Rural Poverty

Ethnicity and geographic location determine one’s poverty in Panama. Panamanians who live in rural areas do not have adequate access to resources, such as hospitals and schools. This is a result of the lack of professional doctors and teachers or mentors in rural areas.

Panama is the second worst in income distribution in Latin America, which leads to sector-specific poverty. Unpaved roads in the country make it are especially difficult for farmers. Accordingly, they do not end up selling their crops in big cities where they can earn a large income. Thus, begins a chain of poverty in Panama that devolves into poor hygiene, sanitation, child labor, malnutrition and eventually yet another generation submerged in loans.

Child Poverty

About 27.7% of Panamanian children live in poverty and 12% experience malnutrition. Failure to register children at birth causes many to go without citizenship. Thus, the government is ignorant on its exact child population and cannot justly allocate money to the “nonexistent.”

Around 15% of children are victims to early marriages. The legal age to marry in Panama is 16 for boys and 14 for girls. However, most of these children are not registered with the government, so kids are married off at ages as young as 10.

The minimum age for working in Panama is 15. Even with this being the case, 5-year-old children can be seen carrying bricks in construction sites. Severally underage workers — child laborers — even appear in big cities like Panama City and Tocumen. To earn a few dollars more, families force their children to work. However, it’s at the cost of children being mentally and physically exploited.

The Rays of Light

Panama has done much to fight poverty. From 2015-2017, poverty in Panama declined from 15.4%  to 14.1%. In the same time span, extreme poverty decreased from 6.7% to 6.6%. Additionally, there are currently multiple NGOs working to help poverty and other problems in Panama. One is to Educate Women in Panama. The organization’s goal is to help lower poverty in the future through more women and girls getting their education. Education will help these women find jobs easier, lowering the poverty rate.

The country, with aid of NGOs and the government, has the potential to bridge the income inequality gap and make itself an equitable society for all, regardless of class, region or ethnicity. Panama can be as bright and colorful as its beaches for not only the urbanites but also the rurals.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Flickr

period poverty in Ghana
Ghana, formally known as the Gold Coast, was the first African country to achieve independence from British colonial rule. Ghana is a leading country in Africa but continues to struggle with poverty. Period poverty in Ghana is a prevailing issue, especially in rural areas. One study in the Zabzugu and North Dayi districts found that 95% of girls in the region missed school due to menstruation.

The causes of period poverty vary. However, the key factors are affordability, lack of education on periods and a dearth of access to menstrual materials. Grassroots and international organizations have stepped in to help solve these issues. An end to period poverty in Ghana is achievable through various strategies.

Eliminating the Tax on Menstruation Materials

 In Ghana, there is currently a 20% import tax on menstruation materials because the country considers them a “luxury” item. This creates a price increase that makes it difficult for families in low-income households to afford these items. An income report on rural Ghanaian cocoa farmers, for example, estimated a monthly income of GHS 1,464 equating to about $329 USD.

The estimated cost of one pad in Ghana averages to about GHS 5. Organizations that support healthy menstruation management, like J-Initiative, believe the Ghanaian government should remove the tax on these materials. #FREEMYPERIOD and #DONTTAXMYPERIOD are just a few of the grassroots campaigns created by advocacy groups urging Ghana’s government to consider menstruation materials as essential.

Recently, Ghanaian youth activists were successful in a six-month-long NOPADTAX campaign. Organizers garnered 2,000 signatures for a petition advocating for the removal of the tax. They presented the petition to the Ghanaian government on Menstrual Hygiene day, May 28, 2020.

The Ghanaian government heard the call for change and responded with a promising answer. At a political event held on August 22, 2020, Ghana’s vice president Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia said that “We will eliminate import duties on sanitary pads to improve health conditions, particularly for girls. It is very important. What we intend [on] doing is to make sure we produce sanitary pads in Ghana [and] until that happens in their numbers, we are going to eliminate import duties to bring down their cost.” Organizers view this as a prominent step toward ending period poverty in Ghana.

Manufacturing at Home

Ghanaian advocacy groups have proposed manufacturing menstrual materials like sanitary pads and reusable sanitary cloths. Organizations like Days For Girls have been working to create alternative solutions to combat period poverty across the globe. This organization employs local women and girls to produce reusable sanitary pads utilizing local materials.

The Ghanaian chapter of the Days for Girls organization has provided 10,000 girls across all 10 regions of Ghana with free menstruation kits through its initiative. Many Ghanaian advocacy groups have proposed grassroots manufacturing initiatives for menstruation materials as an economically and environmentally sustainable solution. Organizers believe that manufacturing menstruation materials on the ground would reduce costs and increase accessibility for these vital products.

Providing Menstrual Supplies

Providing menstruation supplies is another proposal to combat period poverty in Ghana. The Global Partnership for Education and DFID has offered to fund possible scholarship programs that seek to supply sanitary pads and school supplies for girls living in rural Ghana.

The Muslimah Mentorship Network, a Ghanaian based organization, created a campaign entitled #1Girl12Pad. This campaign aimed to provide menstruation materials and education on menstruation hygiene for Ghanaian girls. The group visited a school located in the northern region of Ghana and provided almost 300 girls with 12 packs of sanitary pads each, which is enough to last a whole year. The organization’s goal is to implement the campaign in three schools in each region of rural Ghana.

These kinds of initiatives also hope to encourage girls to continue to attend school while menstruating.

Education on Menstruation

Ghana has a variety of misconceptions and stigmas about menstruation. A popular belief is that menstruation is unclean, leading to mismanagement in menstrual hygiene. Organizations are taking the steps to educate both young women and men about menstruation. With proper education, Ghanaian girls will be better equipped to manage their periods and feel more confident with the idea of menstruating.

Advocacy groups hope that Ghana will place more importance on the value of proper menstrual hygiene and menstrual supplies through this increased knowledge. Education on menstruation is a vital tool in helping to reduce misinformation and stigma surrounding menstruation.

Normalizing Healthy Menstrual Hygiene Management

A healthy understanding of how to manage menstruation is vital. Menstrual hygiene management offers coping mechanisms to girls who suffer from cramps, headaches and other side effects of menstruation. Reports state that these coping skills help encourage girls to continue attending school while on their period.

One study on menstrual health management reports that pain was the leading cause of girls missing school. Healthy menstrual management combats this while also providing girls with crucial information on proper hygiene practices, like changing sanitary pads. Menstruation management can counteract the likelihood of hazardous practices that can lead to infection.

Period poverty is a prevailing issue in Ghana. However, there are many efforts to provide sustained solutions. Education on menstruation, healthy menstrual hygiene management and supply distribution and the elimination of the import tax on menstruation materials provide a feasible way to end period poverty in Ghana. 

Imani Smikle
Photo: Flickr

Women in CubaWomen have experienced oppression at the hands of men for centuries. The world is continually reminded of this fact in current cultural and societal practices. Different nations have made progress in recent years, but this is still a common and enduring problem. However, the information dispersed regarding this topic is commonly obscured by those in charge. Women in Cuba have faced these issues head-on for decades in their fight for equal rights. The long and complex history of women’s right makes it difficult to distill the reality of the situation. However, there is potential for improvement. Here are the key things to know about this pivotal issue.

Education

Compared to other nations, Cuba may appear to be far more progressive on women’s rights. According to the Havana Times, women comprise 53% of the congressional body, and they account for 60% of college graduates. These numbers portray a clear female dominance in areas of higher education and are much higher compared to other developed nations.

Women’s Organizations

“Women’s organizations” are still not welcome in the nation. A new state constitution took effect after the 1960s Cuban revolution that barred the legalization of women’s organizations. An exception was made for the already established FMC.

The FMC, the Federation of Cuban Women, is a communist-controlled organization intended for the advancement of the women in Cuba. This is not inherently indicative of any corruption. However, women are prevented from assembling themselves and are dependent upon the state-sanctioned organization due to the lack of organizational options.

The Workplace

Societal standards are still oppressive to women. Numbers depict women moving out of their roles in the household to earn degrees and serve in the congressional body. The caveat is that women are still expected to perform all the duties that come with running a household. This includes cooking, cleaning and childcare.

This “machismo” mindset is heavily prevalent in Latin American nations. Essentially, this relegates women to the stereotypical domestic roles. This is even applied to women who are practicing doctors, lawyers and teachers. This societal standard burdens working women as well as those who choose to not enter the workforce or pursue higher education.

Discrimination in the workplace is another struggle women in Cuba must face. Women still face societal barriers in how they are compensated and employed. Female physicians and professors are typically paid the governmental base wage because most hospitals and universities are state-owned. This means that women are usually earning $30/hour in these typically high-paying fields. Further, the congressional body that women composed the majority of does not have any actual legislative power. That power is found within the Communist Party, which is only 7% female.

A Positive Outlook

The situation for women in Cuba is difficult to navigate. However, there are statutes in place to assist women in their quest to achieve equal rights within their society. For example, the constitution has an article that specifically protects maternity leave as a right for mothers in the workforce. Furthermore, the accessibility of higher education promises benefits to women of all classes that will last for generations. In essence, there is a long way to go, but that does not diminish how far the women’s rights movement in Cuba has come already.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Cambodia
Period poverty affects women and girls around the globe who cannot afford safe, sanitary products or are unable to receive information about safe period practices due to stigma. Poor period hygiene can lead to many health risks, such as urinary tract infections and reproductive infections. About 50% of the people in Cambodia are women, but people do not talk about period poverty as they deem it a taboo subject.

As of 2019, the poverty rate in Cambodia was 12.9%. However, this number is expected to increase to around 20% due to the coronavirus pandemic. This rise in the poverty rate will leave millions of women and girls vulnerable. Here are five facts regarding period poverty in Cambodia.

5 Facts About Period Poverty in Cambodia

  1. Girls are often in shock when they get their first period. Periods in Cambodia are known as “mokrodou” or the coming season. Notably, many public schools do not teach health education or menstrual hygiene. Cambodians view periods as dirty, which makes menstruation a taboo subject within the country. Consequently, mothers pass down information to daughters, which causes the following of cultural, instead of medical norms. Girls may not shower during their period to keep their skin clean. Parents also forbid girls from swimming for fear they will dirty the water. Finally, parents forbid these girls from eating certain foods believed to disrupt the menstrual cycle.
  2. Of schools in Cambodia, 50% do not have a reliable water supply. In addition to not having reliable water, 33% of schools do not have latrines. Period poverty in Cambodia greatly affects girls in school. Even if girls learn about sanitary period practices, it is difficult to maintain sanitation when schools do not have water or toilets. UNICEF has found that a lack of sanitation facilities can increase a girl’s likelihood to skip school during their period. While at school, girls do not have access to clean, sanitary pads or private facilities to properly dispose of products. Therefore, they prefer to use a toilet and have privacy at home.
  3. Most people cannot afford proper sanitary pads. The national poverty line is $0.93 per person, per day. In Cambodia, a pack of six sanitary pads costs around $3 and they are often difficult to find. Consequently, girls and women often use rags for days at a time instead of sanitary products. This, in turn, often leads to infections, which left untreated can cause permanent health problems, like infertility.
  4. Some schools have implemented menstruation education programs. Snor Khley primary school has recognized the issue of period poverty in Cambodia. It has begun to implement menstrual health management classes to help students better manage their periods. The class encourages both boys and girls to talk openly about menstrual health to destigmatize the subject. The school has also introduced new, hygienic school facilities for girls to practice safe hygiene. Additionally, the school distributes the “Growth and Changes Booklet,” which discusses puberty, to all students. The book has helped more than 122,000 students gain a better understanding of the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty.
  5. Reusable Maxi Pads are emerging as sanitary alternatives. Sovanvotey Hok started a business called Green Lady, which makes environmentally friendly and affordable menstrual products. Apart from making affordable products, the business also employs local housewives to make the products. The reusable pads last up to three years and 1,850 pads have been sold. Green Lady’s product prevents the use of about 96,000 disposable pads, most of which contain noxious materials such as bleach.

An End to Period Poverty

Period poverty in Cambodia is a threat to women’s health as unsanitary period practices lead to infections. Period poverty also affects women’s ability to receive an education as many schools do not have the proper facilities to support menstruating girls. However, as the use of reusable period products becomes more mainstream and continued education and programs in schools develop — hopefully, the stigma surrounding periods will come to an end.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr