Period PovertyPeople often stigmatize menstruation or periods in many countries. This makes it difficult for women to seek help and speak openly about what they need. Lack of education on the subject leads to a threat to women’s well-being. As a result, conversations about period poverty arise. Period poverty is a lack of access to period products, menstrual education and facilities for managing menstruation. It affects many lives. In 2022, 3.1 million people in the U.K. were struggling with hygiene poverty.

What Does Period Poverty Mean to Women?

Apart from stigmatization, period poverty poses another endangerment for girls and women. According to data published in spring 2021, in the U.K., every second girl no-showed to class in school because of her period and every third girl had problems accessing period products after the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Skipping classes or being concerned about other things instead of studying decreases academic performance and can impact the future. When women do not have access to period products, they may use unhygienic materials like old clothing, and this can increase the risk of infections and other health problems. This can also have effects on mental health due to the stress and anxiety of not being able to afford period products. Research in 2019 reported that 27% of girls in the U.K. aged 10 to 18 skip going out for fear of menstruating. Unfortunately, this can result in anxiety and social isolation.

What is the Solution?

The United Kingdom has decided to address this problem. In 2019, the government announced steps to create a task group that includes Plan International UK, Procter and Gamble and Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt, to educate society and to supply free period products to schools and hospitals. Beginning in January 2021, the U.K. government abolished the so-called ‘tampon tax,’ which had imposed a 5% VAT on period products. The decision also brought the U.K. into line with other countries, such as Australia and Canada, which had already removed the tax on sanitary products.


In 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free women’s sanitary products across different levels of educational institutions. Moreso, from 2018 to 2022, the government allocated £1.86 million for women’s sanitary products for families with low income. Since 2019, the Scottish Government also committed to providing £2.8 million annually to local councils to ensure everyone gets free period products all over Scotland. As of 2021, it has implemented a free period product scheme that provides all menstrual products free of charge to anyone who needs them. Under the scheme, free period products are available in public locations, including schools, colleges, universities, community centers and libraries. Products are accessible through vending machines or free-standing dispensers. As of 2023, a special app, ‘PickupMyPeriod,’ allows an individual to track all the products online in real-time. Individuals can also order a home delivery from the local councils.


In England, the government has implemented a fully-funded, four-year period product scheme that provides free period products to primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges. The scheme has been working since January 2020. Educational institutions can order a range of period products for their students. As of January 2022, 61% of primary schools, 94% of secondary schools and 90% of post-16 organizations have ordered toiletries for their pupils. By providing free period products in schools, the government hopes to ensure that students can attend school without worrying about the cost or availability of period products.

Northern Ireland

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen decided to encourage period dignity in schools. In September 2021, she launched a three-year pilot version of a project that aims to supply menstrual products to everyone in need. The scheme covers primary, secondary and special schools as well as Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) settings. The expected cost of the program is £2.6 million.

Lidl in Northern Ireland is one of several businesses that have taken steps to address period poverty in Northern Ireland. In 2021, the company announced the Period Poverty Initiative. It provides free period products in all of its stores in Northern Ireland. Since August 2021, all customers who have a Lidl Plus account can receive a monthly coupon for free period products.


The Welsh Government’s Period Dignity Strategic Action Plan is a plan that sets out the government’s approach to addressing period poverty in Wales. The government has already implemented a free-period product scheme to ensure that individuals have access to the menstrual products they need. There are free period products in schools, public buildings and leisure and sports centers. Since 2018, the Welsh government started to allocate finances on this matter. Each year, it distributes more and more funds for period products. In 2018, it distributed £920,000 between local councils, and in 2022, this number reached £3.7 million. The total amount of spending beginning in 2018 has reached about £12 million.

Going Forward

Period poverty is a complex problem. Apart from period product supply, the question of ruining stigmas and taboos around menstruation is no less important. This problem impacts people’s lives, influencing their physical and mental health. On the bright side, the U.K. continues to take action by implementing initiatives that aim to address period poverty and put an end to stigmatization.

– Anna Konovalenko
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in MoroccoFrom adolescence to middle age, women around the world are on their period for a quarter of every month. Cumulatively, that means a woman will spend 10 years of her life actively menstruating. A woman’s ability to persist in normal activities during this decade holds serious implications for her emotional, intellectual and economic well-being.

The Ripple Effect of Period Poverty in Morocco

In Morocco, more than 6 million people do not have access to basic goods making it exceedingly difficult for young women from low-income families to afford menstrual supplies. This lack of access to pads, coupled with deeply-rooted social stigmas and a general lack of puberty education, causes girls to miss several days of school every month.

Gaps in school attendance cause girls to fall behind, experience a lack of intellectual confidence and sometimes even drop out. The ripple effects of an incomplete education are vast, including vulnerability to child marriage and child labor and reduced chances of future social mobility.

Cultural Stigma Perpetuates Period Poverty

Many communities, including Morocco, suffer intense cultural stigmas surrounding menstruation. A pervasive misconception is that women should not bathe while they menstruate, which not only can cause health issues but can exacerbate shame —dissuading girls from going out in public while on their periods.

A lack of transparent education regarding menstruation allows for these fallacies to survive from generation to generation. As of 2021, Morocco had a population of about 3 million adolescents and young girls and “half of them were shocked to get their first period,” according to Morocco World News.

A Moroccan woman shared her experience about her first period with UNFPA, stating, “I told my mother. She gave me an old piece of cloth and refused to buy me sanitary napkins and forbade me from eating dinner that night.” The woman continued to reflect on menstruating under the pressures of social stigmas, admitting, “I felt I was an outcast. My period every month became an unbearable hell.”

New Era Epitomizes Civil Efforts to Fight Period Poverty

New Era, a Moroccan social movement, is confronting rural period poverty head-on by distributing menstrual underwear and pain medication to women in Casablanca’s Sidi Moumen community. In partnership with the Oum Kaltoum Foundation, the organization provides supplies to women who cannot afford or do not have access to hygiene products. As of November 2021, New Era had distributed over 300 pairs of menstrual underwear to women in Ouinskra, a village located 50 miles outside of Marrakesh.

New Era not only disseminates period supplies but runs community discussions to help quell misconceptions and stigmas that amplify the harm of period poverty in Morocco. “At first, women were intimidated, but within minutes, people became more animated, raising multiple questions, which really helped us in the process of raising awareness,” New Era co-founder Nada Chaddadi told Morocco World News.

Period Poverty Reduction Through Project Soar

Maryam Montague first founded Project Soar in 2013, another campaign fighting period poverty in Morocco. Similar to New Era, the organization has a goal to distribute feminine hygiene products and hold workshops to deconstruct social stigmas. The organization has 28 operating chapters across the country.

Project Soar provides young Moroccan women with reusable menstrual kits that last three years with the hopes that school-aged girls will feel confident and comfortable attending class while menstruating. It has also collaborated with Morocco’s Human Rights Council (CNDH) and UNFPA to run menstrual education workshops throughout Morocco, according to Morroco World News. Project Soar’s empowerment workshops have reached 3,543 teen girls throughout Morrocco.

A young woman who participated in the Project Soar education initiative explained she had trouble playing sports since she did not know if she would have leaks when doing certain moves. “However, now I can say that the Be Girl period kit that Project Soar provided me in Module 3: Body helped me to somehow face this fear and live a normal life,” she concludes.

 Looking Forward

As organizations like New Era and Project Soar launch campaigns confronting period poverty in Morocco, the nation’s mentality surrounding menstruation is rapidly shifting. On May 28, 2021, Morocco celebrated its first-ever World Menstrual Hygiene Day, supporting the international tagline, “Build a world where no one is held back because they menstruate.”

Period poverty in Morocco has been increasingly receiving recognition and treatment as a source of social struggle and gender disparity that deserves earnest attention.

– Elena Unger
Photo: Flickr

NGOs Fighting Period PovertyPeriod poverty, the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and resources, is a global issue affecting millions of women and girls. It hampers their education, health and dignity. However, numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are leading the charge in addressing period poverty, working tirelessly to provide menstrual hygiene products, education and support to those in need. This article will highlight the remarkable efforts of NGOs fighting period poverty, showcasing their innovative approaches and inspiring impact.

5 NGOs Fighting Period Poverty

  1. The Pad Project The Pad Project is a global nonprofit organization focused on breaking the barriers of period poverty. It tackles the issue by establishing sustainable pad-making businesses in communities where access to affordable menstrual products is limited. To date, it has employed 87 women in five countries, Afghanistan, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Through its documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” and grassroots initiatives, it raises awareness, advocates for policy changes and empowers women with economic opportunities. It has also reached more than 106,500 women and girls through menstrual health education workshops.
  2. Days for Girls InternationalDays for Girls International is another organization fighting period poverty. It focuses on ensuring that women and girls have access to sustainable menstrual hygiene solutions. It produces and distributes washable, reusable menstrual kits that include cloth pads and soap, promoting environmentally friendly options. The organization also conducts menstrual health education programs to debunk myths, provide accurate information and empower girls to manage their periods with confidence. It began in Kenya but has reached several more countries in Africa and now operates globally. In its 2021 report, Days for Girls reported that it has reached 2.5 million women and girls in 145 countries with its menstrual kits and education.
  3. Femme InternationalFemme International focuses on menstrual health and hygiene education in Tanzania and Kenya. Through the Twaweza Program, which means ‘we can’ in Swahili, the organization deliver workshops and training sessions to address the lack of knowledge and break the stigma surrounding menstruation. Femme International also distributes reusable menstrual pads and offers support networks to girls and women, enabling them to maintain their health, dignity and uninterrupted access to education. Thanks to its efforts, 71.8% of schoolgirls in the program reported that they did not miss out on any parts of their lives as a result of menstruation.
  4. ZanaAfrica FoundationZanaAfrica Foundation focuses on menstrual health management and the empowerment of girls in Kenya. It provides adolescent girls with access to sanitary pads, along with comprehensive reproductive health education. Since 2013, ZanaAfrica has supported more than 50,000 girls by providing necessary menstrual health and hygiene products.
  5. Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) – Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) is another organization fighting period poverty. In Rwanda, 18% of women and girls report missing school or work because they cannot afford to buy period products. SHE operates by empowering women to produce and distribute affordable, eco-friendly menstrual pads made from locally sourced materials. SHE focuses on creating economic opportunities for women while addressing the lack of access to menstrual products and health education. Over 60,000 girls and women now have access to SHE’s period products.

Breaking the Silence

Across the globe, NGOs are fighting period poverty. Through their initiatives, these organizations are breaking the silence, addressing the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and empowering women and girls to manage their periods with dignity and confidence. By combining advocacy, education and sustainable solutions, these NGOs are making a significant impact and paving the way for a world where period poverty is a thing of the past.

– Eva O’Donovan
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in the Democratic Republic of the CongoPeriod poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) manifests itself in high costs of sanitary products, lack of access to hygiene and sanitation facilities and stigma. Fortunately, the non-governmental organization Uwezo Afrika Initiative is working to address these issues.

Defining Period Poverty

Period poverty entails a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, facilities, education and waste management. For young girls and women unable to purchase sanitary products, period poverty interrupts their progression as these girls cannot attend school or work. Period poverty can have negative effects on mental and physical health and serves as a barrier to the advancement and progression of females across the globe. Worldwide, period poverty affects an estimated 500 million people.

Period Poverty in the DRC

In Kinshasa, in the commune of Makala, specifically in the M’Fidi district, menstruating girls are separated from their peers and may not use the same sanitary facilities as the other children. In the M’Fidi district, almost all schools have only one communal toilet facility for both males and females, making it impossible for menstruating girls to use alternative facilities.

Due to the financial hardship many families face, many girls cannot afford adequate sanitary products. The cost of disposable sanitary pads in the country ranges between $2 and $3 per month. In 2022, almost 62% of Congolese, equal to around 60 million people, lived on less than $2.15 a day, the World Bank highlights. In a country with high poverty rates where the average family has around three daughters, the cost of menstrual hygiene products represents a significant financial burden. As a result, many girls are forced to reuse sanitary products or resort to unhygienic alternatives, which poses risks to their health.

Dangers of Poor Menstrual Hygiene

Poor menstrual hygiene can pose several potential risks to women’s reproductive health. Using unclean alternatives or used sanitary products can introduce bacteria into the vagina, leading to infections in the reproductive and urinary tract and possible infertility.

Another rare but dangerous complication of poor menstrual hygiene is toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS manifests as flu-like symptoms, blistering rash, low blood pressure, disorientation, vomiting and diarrhea. Bacterial toxins cause the condition and menstruating females who use tampons are at particular risk when proper hygiene protocols are not followed.

DRC Period Poverty Statistics

A study by Laura Rossouw and Hana Ross published in 2021 seeks to analyze the extent of period poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and seven other developing countries. The study found that 57% of the sample of women surveyed in Kinshasa reported that menstrual hygiene management facilities lacked privacy and 35% reported that these spaces are not safe. A staggering 75% of the surveyed females cannot lock the hygiene facility they use. In Kinshasa, as many as 84% of the sample reported a lack of access to water and/or soap in toilet facilities.

Impact of Reusable Sanitary Pads

The Uwezo Afrika Initiative, a non-governmental organization, launched a program in 2018 to eradicate period poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The organization manufactures reusable sanitary pads, called Maisha Pads, using fabrics from local markets and distributes them to schools, orphanages and low-income families. The reusable Maisha Pads sell in sets of three for the affordable price of $2.50 and one can reuse the pads safely for several months. Notably, the initiative provides employment opportunities for women on the production line and enables them to earn commissions on sales.

Looking Ahead

Period poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo poses a significant challenge to the emotional and physical well-being of girls and women throughout the nation. Nevertheless, the production and distribution of reusable pads offer a glimmer of hope to those facing the impacts of period poverty.

– Jess Steward
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in ColombiaAround 500 million women and girls worldwide face period poverty, where the lack of access to menstrual products due to financial constraints and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities is a common issue, hindering girls and young women from attending school.

Colombia, a South American country, is making strides toward addressing period poverty. In 2018, it became the “first country in the region to eliminate the tax on tampons and menstrual towels.” International organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are working to combat period poverty in Colombia by providing education and financial aid for menstrual products.

Period Poverty in Colombia

Menstruation, a normal bodily function for half the world’s population, is still considered a taboo topic in many conservative societies. As a result, young people often lack access to proper education regarding period health and management. According to a survey by UNICEF, 34.8% of girls in rural Colombia had no prior knowledge of menstruation before experiencing it.

Financial constraints reportedly prevented more than 683,000 women in Colombia from accessing menstrual products, according to a 2021 report by El Pais. On average, towels and tampons cost Colombian women 180,000 pesos or $45, which accounts for a fifth of the country’s minimum wage. The report also revealed that 312,000 Colombians struggle to access clean and private toilets, further complicating the challenges of managing menstrual health and hygiene.

Period poverty poses challenges beyond economic, health and hygiene issues. According to the World Bank, in “developing countries, two of five girls who have reached menstruation age miss an average of five school days per month due to a lack of access to necessary facilities.” Unfortunately, this can lead to widening the gender gaps in the affected communities by slowing educational progress for girls.

In recent years, there has been a rise in open discussions regarding menstrual health and education, exemplified by the passing of the 2018 bill that eliminated the tax on period products. This move towards greater affordability of such products is a step towards ending period poverty in Colombia.

SRH Efforts

Since 1974, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been operating in Colombia, where it has helped local governments manage reproductive health and gender equity issues. In 2020, the UNFPA provided Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services to 4,473 women of reproductive age. Additionally, the organization distributed dignity kits to approximately 1,200 women, offering essential menstrual products at no cost. In 2021, it spent $2,449,976 solely on SRH services. Moreover, it has been assisting national women’s organizations in advocating for women’s rights concerning SRH.

There has been a surge of national organizations fighting period poverty in Colombia. One such organization is Princesas Menstruantes, based in Medellin. It aims to transform the conversation around menstruation by providing workshops and education to young girls. The group has become a prominent player in Colombia’s political landscape, facilitating research and discussions on menstrual health. Through donations, the organization is expanding beyond Medellin to reach rural and urban areas. In 2019, Princesas Menstruantes reached 3,532 people, including men who were included in the dialogue.

Moving Forward

The issue of period poverty continues to gain attention in international conversations, thereby altering the political landscape for good. Organizations tackling the issue are pushing for a world where girls and women have access to menstrual products and as a result, pursue educational and career success without limitations. And with more Latin American countries like Colombia taking action against period poverty, the world continues moving closer in that direction.

– Eva Cairns O’Donovan
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Asia
The World Bank estimates that at least 500 million women and girls across the world live in period poverty. They lack access to menstrual products and safe, hygienic spaces to use them due to financial restraints. This is certainly prevalent across Asia in high and low-income countries where cultural taboos and attitudes towards women and girls prevent many from accessing the help they need to manage their periods. However, more and more governments and organizations in Asia are beginning to acknowledge the issue of period poverty. They are taking the initiative to help erase the stigma surrounding periods and improve access to menstrual products. Below are four areas of Asia that are tackling period poverty in Asia.

Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, Plan International has collaborated with a sustainable period brand Modibodi to empower almost 5,000 women and girls to safely manage their periods with dignity. Over the course of three months, the NGO has provided 1,000 pairs of reusable menstrual underwear to 333 women and girls in Indonesia alone. While in Laos, 4,500 female students have received reusable period underwear packs. Plan International reports that this initiative has come about after access to menstrual products has become increasingly limited for low-income people across the globe due to widespread inflation as well as the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both have greatly exacerbated living costs.

Despite the increase in period poverty over the past few years, women and girls in Southeast Asia have always faced challenges when it comes to accessing menstrual products and education surrounding menstrual health. Indeed, a 2015 report for UNICEF Indonesia found that only two-thirds of school-aged girls from urban areas in Indonesia changed absorbent menstrual products every four to eight hours or when the material was dirty. This is usually due to the fact that they could not afford to change their menstrual products when necessary. This issue has only been amplified in rural areas, where the amount decreased to less than half of the girls surveyed.


Women in China are also working to end period poverty. Despite living in high-income countries, many women and girls across China face financial difficulties and stigmas when it comes to managing periods. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this, which has led to a rise in poorer women such as students, cancer patients or women from rural areas having to buy low-cost period supplies that do not meet safety standards.

Period Pride, a Chinese NGO focused on menstrual health, has started a series of initiatives to combat period poverty and shame. This has included inviting university students to propose prototypes for products and services which address period poverty for experts and investors to review. In 2020, they also partnered with a range of women’s organizations to create a series of policy recommendations for the China State Council Women and Children Working Committee, which included ensuring that women have access to clean water and can dispose of menstrual waste in a safe and dignified manner.


In Japan, efforts have also occurred to reduce the cost of period products, making them more accessible to all. This is particularly important because despite being an affluent country, Plan International found that one in three women in Japan had hesitated or were unable to buy menstrual products due to financial reasons when surveying 2,000 Japanese women aged 15-24.

Like many of the campaigns tackling period poverty in Asia, grassroots groups, such as the student organization using the hashtag #EveryonesPeriod, which began a petition in 2019 to lessen taxes on menstrual products, led much of the drive to end period poverty in Japan. However, members of the legislature have also begun to acknowledge the problem, with Sayaka Sasaki and Renhō Saitō, two members of the House of Councillors Budget Committee, pushing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to agree to include sanitary products in Japan’s COVID-19 emergency relief plan in 2021. As a result, local governments have started to distribute free menstrual products across their constituencies in Japan.

South Korea

Similar to Japan and China, despite residing in a high-income country, many women in South Korea also struggle when it comes to managing their periods. This issue particularly came to light after a 2016 report found that one low-income South Korean girl could not afford menstrual products and had to use a shoe insole instead.

Stories like these pushed the Seoul Metropolitan Government to launch a pilot program to dispense free menstrual products across 10 public facilities across the city in 2018. These facilities include major attractions such as the Seoul Museum of Art as well as women’s spaces such as the Seoul Women’s Plaza. This program received support from 92% of the 1,475 Seoul residents surveyed about the pilot, indicating an overwhelmingly positive attitude from the public in regard to improving access to menstrual products. Using data collected from the pilot program, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has now expanded the drive to alleviate period poverty across the city, with around 300 institutions in Seoul now providing free menstrual products.

A Better Future Ahead

Whilst a lack of access to menstrual products continues to be a major issue facing women across the globe, these programs and campaigns that are tackling period poverty in Asia provide many a reason to be optimistic about eradicating period poverty. Grassroots, NGO and government-led initiatives to improve access to menstrual products have been instrumental in uplifting the lives of low-income women across Asia. It will continue to do so with further efforts to expand awareness of and end period poverty in Asia.

– Priya Thakkar
Photo: Flickr

African Social Enterprises
All over sub-Saharan Africa, many initiatives are seeking to address poverty and improve people’s lives amid fears of escalating hunger and extreme poverty. The World Bank reported that sub-Saharan Africa would note a decrease in economic growth from 4.1% in 2021 to 3.3% in 2022 due to sluggish global economic growth, the war in Ukraine and extreme weather conditions. Social enterprises keep hope alive by stepping up to address the effects of poverty on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. A social enterprise is a business with social objectives. While these businesses do seek to make profits, the enterprises maximize benefits to society and the environment by bringing relief to the most vulnerable sections of the communities. In particular, several African social enterprises look to address poverty in the region.

Pad-Up Creations

Olivia Onyemaobi founded Pad-Up Creations in May 2016 in Minna in Niger State of Nigeria. This Nigerian social enterprise aims to address period poverty in Nigeria. Period poverty refers to girls’ and women’s lack of access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities to properly manage menstruation. Onyemaobi launched a campaign in 2015 to provide female victims of sexual abuse with counseling and rehabilitation. Onyemaobi also noted a link between period poverty and sexual abuse.

Out of the 1,500 girls who received counseling, 68% had infections from using unsanitary alternatives to manage their menstruation and 79% typically did not attend school when menstruating due to a lack of access to menstrual supplies. Furthermore, 70% regret being female due to their menstruation and 95% reported engaging in sexual encounters to enable them to buy menstrual products.

Pad-Up Creations manufactures affordable washable and reusable sanitary pads that last up to a year, saving females from the monthly costs of menstrual supplies and ensuring girls stay in school. According to Onyemaobi, Pad-Up Creations reached more than 100,000 girls in Nigeria by 2017 but now has outlets in 18 African countries reaching millions of women and girls. Aside from reducing poverty, the social enterprise is also empowering other women economically. More than 300 females work in the factory in Minna while others are distributors of the products earning minimal profits.

Solar Sister

Solar Sister is another one of the African social enterprises empowering and helping women across sub-Saharan Africa. It invests in women and “clean energy businesses in off-grid Africa.” It is a movement of women, men, allies and partners with a mission to eradicate energy poverty by “empowering women with economic opportunity.”

Solar Sister initially came about in 2010 through the efforts of two women, a Ugandan banker, Katherine Lucey, and an Indian energy economist, Neha Misra, whose visits to remote areas in their different localities inspired them to build social enterprises around women, focusing on affordable clean energy. Three other women, Evelyn Namara of Uganda, Fatma Muzo of Tanzania and Olasimbo Sojinrin of Nigeria, boosted these efforts by launching operations in their respective countries.

According to the World Bank, just 48% of people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to electricity in 2020. Furthermore, just 18% of people in this region had “access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking” in the same year. The detrimental effects of household air pollution led to about 500,000 premature deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018.

Against this backdrop, Solar Sister produces and provides clean stoves for cooking and solar solutions for lighting and charging batteries. So far, across three African countries, Solar Sister has reached more than 3.5 million people and has sold more than 700,000 clean energy products. Furthermore, the enterprise has helped 8,500 people become entrepreneurs by selling its solar products, 87% of whom are women.

Farm On Wheels

Farm On Wheels is a Nigerian social enterprise whose vision is to help smallholder farmers in hard-to-reach locations in Niger State, Nigeria. Its mission is to take knowledge, skills, improved seeds and agrochemicals to farmers in remote locations in order to assist them in increasing their yields and accessing markets for their products, making them gainfully employed and financially empowered. Jocelyne Agbo founded the enterprise in 2017 as an alumnus of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Because smallholder farmers in Nigeria live and work in remote locations with little knowledge of or access to advancements, they tend to stick to traditional agricultural practices at the subsistence level. Farm On Wheels brings advancements to rural farmers in leaps by helping to increase their yields and giving them access to bigger markets, making their farming endeavors more economically viable.

Between May 2021 to April 2022, Farm On Wheels partnered with the Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, a USAID-funded activity implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA). To improve yields and production, Farm on Wheels distributed “input loans” totaling 24 million nairas ($58,151 USD) to 500 farmers, including 100 youth farmers in Niger State.

These three African social enterprises fill the gap between government action and the hard-to-reach, vulnerable people living in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby, lifting many out of poverty.

– Friday Okai
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Pakistan
Pakistan has some of the highest rates of period poverty globally, largely resulting from the persistent taboos that surround the issue of menstruation. As much as 80% of young girls in Pakistan drop out of school, partly due to a lack of menstrual education and inadequate supplies/facilities to adequately manage their menstruation. In some rural areas, women are restricted to a single room during their menstrual cycles. With recent floods destroying both homes and sanitation facilities in some areas, many women have no choice but to resort to harmful menstrual management practices.

Period Poverty and the 2022 Floods

In 2022, Pakistan saw some of the worst flooding in the nation’s history. The floods led to the deaths of 1,700 people at a minimum and displaced about 8 million individuals due to the destruction of homes. The floods had numerous knock-on effects, including increased period poverty in Pakistan.

Water submerged more than a third of the country during the height of Pakistan’s 2022 floods, leaving more than 8 million women without the necessary resources or facilities to properly manage their menstruation. During the floods, women resorted to using “plastic bags, leaves, damp newspapers, damp rags and old clothes” due to the lack of proper menstrual products.

Researchers from Aga Khan University Hospital conducted a study on menstrual hygiene among women aged 14-49 in Dadu district, Sindh province, an area that recent floods in Pakistan harshly impacted. Researchers noted that from 2019 to 2021, roughly 40% of the 25,000 females surveyed were not using any menstrual products at all.

While many organizations and national governments came to Pakistan’s aid, pledging more than $9 billion, relief packages did not prioritize menstrual aid as Pakistani society typically avoids the taboo topic. Period poverty and the use of unhygienic alternatives to manage menstruation along with a lack of hygiene facilities can lead to serious health implications, such as infections, toxic shock syndrome and vaginal diseases.

Pakistan heavily taxes menstrual products, placing them under a so-called “luxury tax” despite their necessity. Many women, especially in rural areas, simply cannot afford these supplies, resulting in “79[%]of Pakistani women [suffering] from poor menstrual hygiene every month,” according to The Diplomat.

Mahwari Justice

Mahwari Justice is a menstrual flood relief group that two students, Bushra Mahnoor and Anum Khalid, set up in July 2022. They have distributed menstrual hygiene products in Pakistan since the beginning of last year’s floods. The group believes that breaking the stigma around period poverty is one of the main hurdles when it comes to enabling more women to access period products in Pakistan. The students are unapologetic in the face of taboo with the name Mahwari simply translating to “periods” in Urdu.

The group adapts its menstrual kits to different areas based on the extent of the flooding impacts. For example, for the 660,000 people living in disaster relief camps in Pakistan in September 2022, washable products that can be reused are not suitable given poor water and sanitation access.

However, in areas less affected, teaching women to make their own reusable period products is an effective long-term solution. Mahwari Justice provided 20,000 menstrual kits to females in need at the peak of Pakistan’s 2022 floods. The group has pledged to continue fighting to end period poverty in Pakistan, not only in light of the recent flooding but also to create a brighter future for women and girls in Pakistan.

By putting girls and women at the forefront of relief efforts, aid organizations can prioritize the needs of some of the most marginalized individuals.

– Florence Jones
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Peru
In May 2018, the World Bank shockingly announced that more than 500 million women worldwide live in period poverty. The inability to manage menstrual health due to the expense or unavailability of sanitary products or bathroom facilities is an issue women face globally. In counties where general poverty rates are higher, the level of period poverty is high. Indeed, Action Aid estimates that in developing nations, “half of all women and girls are sometimes forced to use items like rags, grass and paper” owing to a complete lack of hygiene products. One such country that experiences period poverty at a higher rate than the global average is Peru.

Poverty and COVID-19

Peru is located on South America’s west Pacific coast and with a population of 33 million people is the fourth largest nation on the continent. The Peruvian economy experienced significant growth in the first two decades of the 21st century with the rate of moderate poverty more than halving from 42.4% in 2007 to 20.2% in 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted Peru.

In terms of the number of deaths as a percentage of the population, Peru has the worst rates in the world. With a mortality rate of almost 666 deaths per 100,000 people, nearly double the U.S. percentage, Peru has suffered heavily during the last few years. The European Union accounts this high mortality rate to the “poor state of the Peruvian health system, with a lack of oxygen capacities and intensive care beds.” The country’s poor health care system is a leading cause of the high rate of period poverty in Peru as it currently lacks the capacity to produce and distribute sufficient sanitary products.

Education and Gender Inequality

The issue of period poverty in Peru is an issue of lack of gender equality in terms of education. Writing for GirlUp in May 2021, Giordana Montes and Lizandra Cañedo revealed that, in Latin American culture, menstruation is “considered dirty and something that should not be talked about in public. A taboo.” This belief accounts for reports from UNICEF Mexico claiming that a massive 43% of female students prefer to abstain from school during their cycle.

Indigenous girls, who live in rural areas and experience “the most extreme poverty,” account for “the least educated groups” in Peruvian society. This lack of education for girls causes an early imbalance between genders with the lasting implication that women receive fewer opportunities as they grow up.

The Solution

Fortunately, period poverty in Peru could come to an end. This involves both removing the stigma around periods and also providing sufficient hygiene kits and bathroom facilities to those who need them most. Other countries are paving the way with forward-thinking legislation to end period poverty. In 2020, Scotland became the first country to offer free sanitary products to all women. The same year, France and New Zealand began offering free sanitary products in schools.

While these effective yet expensive methods of tackling the issue are less attainable in poorer nations, the Peruvian government has been responding. The Peruvian Ministry of Education invested 165 million Soles to buy hygiene kits for schools which included menstrual hygiene products, helping to promote awareness and normalize the use of specific products, GirlUp reported. With this government’s willingness to act, as well as the expected global economic recovery in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of reducing period poverty in Peru looks promising.

– Max Edmund
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa
Period poverty is defined as a “lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities [and/or] waste management.” The World Bank says that each day, more than 300 million females menstruate and about 500 million menstruating females experience period poverty. In impoverished areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, the issue is more pronounced. The impacts of period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa are far-reaching.

3 Facts About Period Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Inaccessible Menstrual Products. The prices of menstrual products like sanitary pads range between $0.96 in Ghana and $2 in Zimbabwe. These high costs mean basic menstrual essentials are unaffordable for impoverished girls and women. As such menstruating females sometimes resort to using unhygienic alternatives such as newspapers, rags, cow dung and leaves, which increases the risk of infections.
  2. Menstrual Stigma and Misinformation. Due to a lack of information and misconceptions, in sub-Saharan Africa, menstrual stigma is common and worsens cases of period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa as girls who are period-poor hesitate to reach out for help due to embarrassment. Also, because of stigma, taboos and myths, girls are usually isolated and sometimes restricted from activities during their menstrual cycle. For example, in Asembo, Kenya, many people believe “menstruating girls should not sleep in their mother’s house” because menstruation is considered an “unclean” process.
  3. Period Poverty Affects Education. According to UNESCO in 2014, because of period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, 10% of girls miss out on education while menstruating. This equates to losing about 20% of a school year. Girls without menstrual supplies to properly manage their periods fear embarrassment or humiliation at school. When a girl completes school, she has higher job prospects, learns more about her health and helps her family, community and country at large. Period poverty raises the chances of dropping out of school entirely, which makes girls more vulnerable to poverty.

FemConnect by Asonele Kotu

Asonele Kotu is a South African entrepreneur who founded FemConnect. In alignment with SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality), FemConnect is a startup focusing on developing technological solutions to address period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

The BBC explained that the “platform allows users to access sexual and reproductive telemedicine with no stigma or discrimination as well as feminine hygiene products and contraceptives.” The focus is on underserved, marginalized girls. Girls can reach the website privately for assistance and advice pertaining to their menstrual health.

With the #WegotuGirl campaign to end period poverty in Africa, Kotu also advocates and garners support for the distribution of menstrual products like pads, menstrual cups and tampons to less privileged women and girls living in rural communities. “Collaborating with schools and local organizations to uplift women, Kotu has expanded her initiative to Nigeria,” Sowetan Live reports.

With platforms such as FemConnect, girls in sub-Saharan Africa can now seek menstrual guidance and easily access menstrual products, which helps to reduce the number of girls missing school during their menstruation. By addressing period poverty, poverty as a whole reduces because more girls gain an education.

– Oluwagbohunmi Bajela
Photo: Flickr