Period Poverty in Jamaica
The feminine hygiene product brand, Always, is addressing period poverty in Jamaica for the fourth year in a row. By providing thousands of girls with sanitary pads, Always works to end period poverty in Jamaica.

About Period Poverty

Period poverty, or the lack of access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities, is a public health crisis that is currently affecting about 500 million women worldwide as of 2021. As of 2017, according to the World Bank, around 19.3% of people in Jamaica live below the poverty line. According to a study that Shelly-Ann Weeks conducted through the HerFlow Foundation, 44% of girls in Jamaica suffer from period poverty and have to go without sanitary supplies for months at a time.

Aside from the obvious implications, girls in Jamaica are ending up at a major disadvantage due to their lack of access to period products. Many girls facing period poverty miss as much as a week of school per month, causing their grades to drop and their self-esteem to dwindle. Girls facing period poverty suffer from the psychological impacts of feeling inferior and of lower status as a result of a basic biological process. This shame and guilt among teenagers can affect them well into womanhood. The inability to properly care for their bodies puts girls at risk for health issues that many in Jamaica cannot afford to treat, such as reproductive and urinary tract infections.

Period Poverty and COVID-19

Although period poverty is a historically taboo issue, the world has put the problem on the back burner during the past two years due to other issues deemed more urgent, stemming from COVID-19. The hotel and restaurant industries in Jamaica endured hard hits when tourism came to a halt in 2020 as the tourism sector laid off as many as 50,000 employees. In a country where many have lived in poverty since before the onset of the pandemic, this hit only worsened people’s living conditions and made basic products, such as feminine hygiene products, even less accessible.

How Always Works to End Period Poverty in Jamaica

Always acknowledges the timeliness of this campaign, as many families have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table, never mind purchasing sanitary pads. As Always continues to work to end period poverty in Jamaica, it set a goal for 2022 to donate more than 200,000 sanitary pads to 14 schools in 14 different parishes throughout Jamaica. From the beginning of March 2022 to June 2022, Always ran a period poverty campaign where, for every Always product purchase by a consumer, the company will make a direct donation to a female in need.

Always is working in conjunction with the HerFlow Foundation, the country’s leading enterprise in addressing the stigma around menstruation and ending period poverty. Volunteers at the HerFlow Foundation will ensure that the Always product donations make their way to the designated schools. Various social media influencers from Jamaica have agreed to help expand the campaign and educate people about the issue and how they can help make a difference.

Looking Ahead

While Always is working to end period poverty in Jamaica, the fight will not end with just one effort. Girls will continue to turn to harmful alternatives for feminine hygiene products and will remain unable to learn and socialize as a result of period poverty. Amid its recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, Jamaica is still not equipped to provide access to sanitary products to every girl in need. In order to preserve girls’ confidence and health in the most basic of ways, it is vital that companies and organizations continue prioritizing access to menstrual products for young girls in Jamaica.

– Ava Lombardi
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in Switzerland
Women have been getting their periods from the beginning of time. The first mass-produced commercial menstrual products emerged in 1897. On average, people with access to these menstrual products use
17,000 tampons in their life. Now, there are a plethora of menstrual products to choose from. Unfortunately, even with the availability of these products, there is immense period poverty, which refers to the inability of a menstruating person to access or afford products for their cycle. In Switzerland, 8.5% of the population faces income poverty which likely has an impact on women’s ability to menstruate hygienically. Switzerland has made considerable strides in an attempt to nullify the discrepancies between genders. However, this has not been entirely successful. Here is some information about period poverty in Switzerland and what measures are in place to eliminate it.

The Reason for the Problem

Period poverty in Switzerland is a problem that some parts of the country have attempted to address. However, it has become increasingly difficult for the youths to access these products due to inflation and taxes. With 50.4% of the population of Switzerland being female, they are part of the more than 500 million women worldwide who are deprived of menstrual products. The average woman bleeds for a total of 3,500 days or 10 years of her life. When living below the poverty line, it is often difficult to obtain menstrual products. About 10% of Switzerland’s youth fall below the poverty line as of 2019. However, specific statistics are not available regarding the number of people that period poverty affects in Switzerland.

All over, this deprivation curbs these people’s potential as they cannot step out of their house to work or study for fear of random pain in different parts of their body along, fear of staining their clothes or even just keeping their hygiene. This has a significant impact on the productivity of these women and their contribution to the world economy and each individual’s life. Lack of hygiene and loss of blood and tissues make a woman prone to multiple bacterial issues. The disparity between the two groups is unnecessary and dispels the disadvantaged group of a fundamental human right.

The Reason for the Prevalence of Period Poverty in Switzerland

The Swiss government started a campaign in 2021 to try and solve the problem of period poverty by making pads and tampons available for free in public schools and colleges. However, this did not work very well as, despite the free products, they were not in stock and available at all times within the schools and colleges. Often, the schools and colleges did not advertise their availability, and the school’s menstruating counterparts did not know they had a right to access these products. The lack of appropriate advertisement for the campaign failed to raise awareness about the unsaid taboo still prevalent in this small European country.

One might think that period products should not be so expensive since they are necessary for the normal bodily function of menstruation. However, it is more expensive to menstruate than it is to take a performance-enhancing tablet like Viagra since the Swiss Government imposed a value-added tax (VAT) rate of 7.7% on feminine hygiene products.

Poverty is an issue in nearly one in five Swiss households and about 10% of the youth below the age of 20 fall under the poverty line. On any given day, 300 million women and girls worldwide will be menstruating, indicating that period poverty is likely a challenge that requires resolution not only in Switzerland but also globally.


Apart from the Swiss Government’s individualistic contribution to eradicating the problem in the country, the World Bank has made an effort to collectively end the stigmatization of menstruation worldwide by introducing the annual Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28. The end of stigmatization means that soon people will be able to talk about periods and issues like period poverty without experiencing shame.

Additionally, the City of Geneva introduced a pilot project wherein the municipality of the city has put up vending machines in economically challenged suburbs where youth are most likely to congregate. These machines contain sanitary and period-related products with organic cotton sanitary towels. Geneva has installed more than 53 machines as of September 2021. The aim was to break the taboo surrounding periods and make periods open to conversation. The products available within the machines are at subsidized prices, making them more affordable.

Another contributor to this is entrepreneurs Alexandra Wheeler and Eléonore Arnaud, who opened a boutique in Toulouse, Switzerland, called Rañute, which is all about destigmatizing periods. Wheeler and Arnaud open up conversations and stock products ranging from herbal teas to help with period pain as well as reusable panties and cups. It is not just a safe space for women but also young girls. It also provides a space for fathers and those in transition phases, such as menopause, who are eager to learn. Recently, the boutique has expanded to have online stores for its products to make them more readily available throughout France and Switzerland.

While more work is essential in terms of raising awareness, removing the stigma around menstruation and period poverty and making sanitary products freely available, Switzerland is on a solid path to do so. Hopefully, with continued work, period poverty in Switzerland will disappear entirely.

– Zyra Irani
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Education to Alleviate Period Poverty
During times of violence, those in need often receive aid, but period health often is a neglected aspect of assistance. Places with ongoing ethnic violence, war and displaced people need solutions for their women and girls to stay protected from infections and infertility issues. Hygiene is important and solutions are more sustainable when operating on the ground and pinpointing specific causes for specific issues. Kashmir, Palestine and Ukraine highlight the power of education to alleviate period poverty during conflict.


In Kashmir, many women cannot afford pads. Due to oppressive government officials and hateful bias in the region, many have lower access to health care and are constantly on the move. This cycle causes period poverty and cultural taboos continue to worsen the issue. Local doctors who treat tribal women see fever, vomiting, infection and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) as a result of the women not properly using reusable period cloths.

Tribal women in Jammu and Kashmir doctors are telling women that “Severe infection can lead to adhesions [scar tissue] in the uterus, which can block the fallopian tubes and, in certain cases, lead to infertility,” Open Democracy reported. It is unusual for girls to learn how to manage their period or how to adapt to hygienic practices with limited resources.

Shazia Chaudhary is a Gujjar activist who holds counseling sessions on menstruation to educate nomadic girls about sanitary pads and proper washing for reusable rags. According to Open Democracy, less than 10% of tribal women in Jammu and Kashmir have accurate knowledge about periods or receive period education. The process of providing education to alleviate period poverty can eliminate serious health concerns.

One man in Kashmir is spreading awareness and engineering cheaper sanitary products for those in extreme poverty in Kashmir. Aaqib Peerzada makes cheap and eco-friendly pads. Alongside, Dr. Auqfeen Nisar is working to educate girls on the safety of these products and register girls for pads at subsidized rates. Health concerns decrease by creating awareness and providing solutions.


UNICEF is creating programs in Palestine to provide education to alleviate period poverty and to help those in extreme poverty learn about personal hygiene and have access to clean water and facilities. Not all women and girls have access to sanitary products, especially in times of uncertainty. As a result of historical forced movement, conflict in 2014 and destruction of infrastructure, many restrooms are not sanitary and lack privacy.

The combination of sanitation concerns and the overall taboo of periods at a young age leads to many young school girls with poor period hygiene. This can cause infection and possible reproductive issues. After success in 2012 and 2016, programs are expanding. “As part of its new country programme action plan in Palestine over 2018-2022, UNICEF is planning to continue with the WASH in schools programmes to address unmet needs identified in vulnerable communities,” said UNICEF in its report.

By creating better facilities and period knowledge, in schools, young women can have a private area to clean reusable products or dispose of reusable products, without feeling embarrassed.

Ukraine and Future Perspectives

Refugees all around the world face insecurity with sanitary products and it is Ukrainian refugees and citizens who now face this concern. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, more than 4 million refugees have fled the country. According to Global Citizen, many of the refugees are women “who could not bring enough supplies to manage their periods and do not have the means to buy them.” Existing programs like I Support The Girls (ISTG), which women created and run, are starting to help “on the ground” in nearby countries to expand their assistance.

Many organizations have received heightened interest in donors, following the invasion of Ukraine and hope that the interest in period poverty and education continues after the war for other women in need.

Refugees and war zones all around the world face similar period products and sanitary needs. The Global Citizen is able to give credit to charities that will continue to help Ukrainian women and other countries, for a long to come.

– Karen Krosky
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Iraq
The debris of war lies heavily in Iraq. The country’s constant conflicts with ISIS, which internal sectarian divides and Kurdish disputes exacerbated, have led to the focus shifting from other vital issues. Period poverty in Iraq —  the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, water and sanitation facilities and proper knowledge about menstruation — stands as one of these issues.

Taboo About Periods

In most developed countries, talks about puberty and sexual development are normal. In deeply conservative countries like Iraq, however, society considers the topic of menstruation taboo. This leads to not only unpreparedness but also feelings of shame when adolescent girls first start menstruating. In an article that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) published, Rusul, a young Iraqi woman, opened up about her experience with her first period. She mentioned that she felt confused and afraid, and “thought that she had done something wrong.”

The UNFPA established a Women Social Center in Rusul’s neighborhood a few years after her harrowing experience. The Center hosts educational sessions on issues affecting girls and women, such as menstruation, in order to raise awareness and educate girls on how periods affect them both mentally and physically. By dispelling myths and being open about biological facts, women in Iraq can feel comfortable about their body processes and confident enough to take the steps to maintain proper health and hygiene.

Feelings of fear and embarrassment in relation to periods are even more prevalent among lower-income individuals who have even less access to information and products like sanitary pads. UNICEF believes that by educating girls about menstrual cycles at an early age, the organization can help girls develop healthy menstrual practices. The organization has started work in the North African and Middle East regions to equip people of all genders with the necessary information about menstruation to help address misconceptions, prevent discrimination and reduce stigmas.

In Iraq specifically, one of UNICEF’s ongoing projects aims to develop and strengthen the knowledge of menstrual hygiene management among teachers. By conveying their menstrual knowledge to schoolgirls and normalizing periods, educators will “build confidence and encourage healthy habits” among menstruating girls.

Period Poverty During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated issues of period poverty in Iraq and throughout the world. The economic recession and supply chain crisis that followed have made menstrual supplies and hygiene products even less accessible, especially for those living in poverty. When girls and women cannot access menstrual products, they often resort to unsanitary methods, such as using dirty clothes or plastic bags to contain the bleeding. Consequently, these girls and women put themselves at risk of infections.

Moreover, during the pandemic, measures like lockdowns and the closing of social and medical centers block off access to menstrual education and free menstrual resources. The situation is worse for people in refugee camps, prisons and other institutions. A woman in Kirkuk, Iraq, told UNFPA that during the lockdown in 2020, being in a detention center made detainees feel forgotten “but [their] intimate needs matter.”

Solutions to Combat Period Poverty

In response to the problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNFPA has arranged to distribute dignity kits to families during the pandemic. During times of conflict with ISIS, specifically from 2014 to 2015, the UNFPA handed out about 95,000 such kits. The kit consists of “toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, sanitary pads and underclothes.” While distributing, UNFPA  staff can meet women to assess their needs and tell them about the psychological and reproductive services that the organization offers.

UNHCR collaborated with partners in 2020 and assisted 77,786 girls and women in Iraq by providing sanitary products to them.

UNICEF also helped in arranging clean water and sanitation supplies for women in care homes, correctional facilities and hospitals. Additionally, public video messages and announcements created by UNFPA helped teachers, parents and students gain awareness of menstrual health, even though schools had effectively shut down.

These steps to address period poverty in Iraq are bearing fruit. Data that UNICEF and WHO collected from refugee camps in Iraq in 2020 shows that almost 100% of women felt satisfied with the provision of “menstrual materials and facilities.” Moreover, according to survey data collected in Iraq between 2016 and 2020, 94% of women between the ages of 15-49 years had a private place to wash and change and 97% “had basic hand washing facilities.”

Though solutions are underway, only continued efforts and steadfast commitments to reducing period poverty in Iraq will ensure long-term change and lasting impacts.

– Anushka Raychaudhuri
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in Europe
In 2020, several countries in Europe took a stand against period poverty that inspired current efforts in other European countries. The United Nations Population Fund defines period poverty as “the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products.” The term also refers to the lack of access to water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) facilities necessary to properly manage menstruation.

While some women have limited access to period products, others have none. According to the French organization Rules Elementary, an estimated 500 million women experience period poverty across the globe. The inability to manage menstruation through the necessary products pushes girls and women to miss school and work. In fact, around 100 million girls “miss up to one week of school a month” because they lack period products. In Europe, the average woman spends €27,000 on period products in a lifetime. According to European Waves, “the data [on period poverty in Europe] is fragmented, and in Europe as [a] whole, there are no official numbers on the issue.” However, “in individual countries, estimates all fluctuate around 10%, meaning [one] in 10 menstruators experience period poverty.”

Scotland and France’s Early Efforts

In November 2020, Scotland became the very first nation on the globe to provide free period products to all its residents. Women in need of period products can find them free in public places such as “community centers, pharmacies and youth clubs.”

The French Institute for Public Opinion has found that 1.7 million women experience period poverty in France. Furthermore, in a survey of 6,500 females in France, 13% stated that, at some point in their lifetimes, they had to choose between purchasing period products or purchasing an essential item, such as food. The government of France pledged €1 million to go directly to schools to provide free period products to students. France also announced plans for an initiative to begin in October 2020 “to set up free, organic hygiene product dispensers in 31 French high schools.”

Period Poverty in Belgium’s Prisons

In a November 2020 article, The Brussel Times reported on a survey by Caritas Vlaanderen, known for its humanitarian work in Flanders, Belgium. The survey found that, at times, 12% of females ages 12-25 did not have the financial means to purchase period products. Looking at period poverty figures among girls who live in poverty in Belgium, the numbers rise to 45%.

As part of Belgium’s efforts to make period products available to all women, the nation announced on May 17, 2022, that period products would be free for its female prisoners. The 500 prisoners in Belgium will receive 300,000 tampons and pads for free. In the past, only prisoners without a source of income had access to menstrual products. Meanwhile, “Other detainees, who worked within prison or benefitted from allowances” could order menstrual products, but paid higher costs (compared to the industry standard) for these menstrual products due to the price of shipping. As of 2020, the Belgian government committed €200,000 to address period poverty in the nation.

Value-added Tax (VAT) in Europe

Although essential to women, many countries in Europe do not consider period products an essential item. Menstruators in some European countries pay a VAT of about 22% on menstrual products, which is equivalent to the VAT on “luxury items.” In comparison, vegetables and fruits, as essential items, typically have a VAT of 4%. In 2018, Belgium reduced its VAT on menstrual items from 21% to 5% to combat period poverty in Europe.

Before 2022, Spain deemed menstruation products luxury items taxable at a VAT rate of 10%. However, Spain considered viagra an essential, taxable at just 4%. This year, Spain dropped the tax for period products to the level of essential items.

The United Kingdom, which formally left the EU on January 31, 2020, was able to abolish its 5% “tampox tax” after the separation. The Treasury found that abolishing this tax saves the average woman £40 across a lifetime. This change opens the door for other countries to redefine period products as essential items and not luxuries.

Spain is looking to give women paid sick leave for extreme period pain, opening the path for other countries to follow suit.

Looking Forward

Providing free products to schools, communities and prisons is a step in the right direction to ending period poverty. Education plays an equally important role in reducing period poverty in Europe. Information on good practices and knowing how to ask for help are imperative for young girls’ health. As more girls attend school, education will pave the path to securing skilled employment opportunities and higher-paying jobs in the future. With access to products in adulthood, fewer women will miss work and pay due to their periods.

Period poverty impacts women in developed and developing nations, but governments are slowly paving a path around the world to end period poverty.

– Sara Sweitzer
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Period Poverty in Canada
Period poverty refers to the “struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products.” This term also encompasses the “increased economic vulnerability” females face because of the economic burden caused by the high prices of menstrual supplies. This is an issue visible worldwide, but one that Canada’s provinces and municipalities have already begun tackling. In fact, the fight against period poverty in Canada has been ongoing since 2015.

Recent Polls Show Women’s Struggles

In 2020, close to 25% of Canadian women and about 33% of women younger than 25 faced financial hardship in securing “menstrual products for themselves or their dependants.” In that same year, it was estimated that “Canadians who menstruate typically spend up to $6,000 in their lifetime on menstrual hygiene products.” For women who live in remote or rural Canadian areas, the cost is even heftier —  women pay twice as much for menstrual products.

Free Menstrual Products in Schools

In 2021, a  Plan International Canada survey indicated that 63% of Canadian females “regularly or occasionally missed an activity because of their period” or due to “concerns about not being able to access menstrual hygiene products or proper facilities.” The report also showed that 34% of Canadian females “have had to regularly or occasionally sacrifice something else within their budget to afford menstrual products.”

It was due to these findings that the government of Ontario began working on reducing period poverty in the province. After months of collaboration and negotiation, in October 2021, the Ontario Government began a three-year partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart to increase access to menstrual supplies. According to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce’s announcement, the government would distribute “six million free menstrual products per school year to school boards.” This made Ontario the first of four provinces to “take action on the issue of period poverty in schools” and one of the first to actively fight period poverty in Canada.

Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, Jane McKenna, has shown high hopes for the new program: “Our government is committed to reducing stigma and removing barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their full potential.” McKenna stated that free menstrual products in schools “will help create more equitable environments. The partnership is working to advance female health  in order to help all “young female Ontarians to succeed, flourish and grow.”

Fighting Tampon Tax

Another example of how Canadian provinces fight period poverty in Canada is the removal of the “tampon tax.” Tampon tax refers to the specific tax placed on menstrual products such as tampons and sanitary napkins. Canada lifted this tax on period products in 2015, making the products more affordable for some but not all. For many facing economic challenges or enduring insecure housing, menstrual products are still unaffordable.

And for some, menstrual hygiene “becomes a choice rather than a necessity as they often have to choose between a meal or [tampons/sanitary napkins].” This has led to reports of many women and girls who struggle economically using unhygienic and unsanitary items such as “rags, dirty socks, paper towels and newspapers,” which puts them at risk of health issues such as toxic shock syndrome and other infections.

The Fight Continues

However, although the fight against period poverty in Canada has begun and is ongoing, there is still room for progress. Nonetheless, because the Canadian “provinces have general jurisdiction over health care,” Parliament has used its “federal division of powers” to begin programs to increase “access to free menstrual products” in many Canadian provinces and municipalities.

For example, similar to Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia also provide free menstrual products in schools. The Canadian Government is also revising and evaluating policies as well as seeking feedback about different initiatives to provide “free menstrual products in federally regulated workplaces.” The government is working to address “menstrual equity at the national level.” Thus, despite some delays that the COVID-19 pandemic caused, the Canadian government recognizes this issue and continues being receptive to helping resolve the issue, which could lead to menstrual products becoming more affordable or even becoming free to larger portions of the population in the coming years.

– Marcela Agreda L.
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in India
Period poverty is a serious concern in many countries, specifically India. Period poverty involves a lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual education and hygiene and sanitation facilities necessary to properly manage menstruation. Because the impacts of period poverty are far-reaching, several organizations are aiming to address period poverty in India.

Period Poverty in India

According to Feminism India, those who cannot afford menstrual products resort to unsafe alternatives such as “rags, hay, sand and ash,” which can lead to infections. Period poverty is a continuing issue in India due to the cultural stigma surrounding menstruation. Many people consider menstruation a taboo topic that they should not discuss. In India, research has indicated that 71% of girls do not have “knowledge of menstruation before their first period.” This lack of knowledge and stigma surrounding menstruation has led to one out of every five female students dropping out of school once menstruation begins. In addition, more than 40% of female students in India choose not to attend school during their menstrual cycle due to the inability to access menstrual products to properly manage their menstruation coupled with the social stigma menstruating girls face at schools.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Period Poverty in India

Since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the pandemic has only intensified period poverty in India. Many organizations that are trying to address period poverty in India by providing menstrual education and free sanitary products are facing difficulties providing either. This is because COVID-19 led to school shutdowns, creating a barrier to free menstrual products and educational workshops that organizations provide to schools. In addition, organizations that were providing free menstrual products could not obtain products due to supply chain disruptions. In rural areas of India, where households struggled to afford basic groceries even before the onset of COVID-19, people do not consider menstrual products as essential.

The Desai Foundation

Samir A. Desai and Nilima Desai founded The Desai Foundation in 1997. The Desai Foundation aims to help people in both the U.S. and India through more than 25 programs covering issues such as “health and hygiene,” period poverty, entrepreneurship and vocational training. In India, the Desai Foundation works to uplift “women and children through community programming to elevate health and livelihood” in more than 568 villages. To address period poverty in India, the Foundation established the Asani Sanitary Napkin Program, which has “created economic empowerment, provided hygiene education, increased community awareness and cultivated dignity for numerous women in the region.”

The Asani Sanitary Napkin Program teaches local Indian women to produce and distribute affordable yet high-quality sanitary pads across three regions in India, with the aim of expanding to more areas. The program has created job opportunities for more than 2,000 local women who have produced more than 2.3 million sanitary pads in four manufacturing units. The Desai Foundation distributed more than 445,000 of these pads without any charge. So far, the program has positively impacted more than 270,000 girls and women.

The Onset of COVID-19

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Desai Foundation was able to adapt its programs to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. In response to the pandemic, the Desai Foundation gave employment to local village women who previously attended the organization’s sewing program. The Desai Foundation paid the women to sew two-layer protective face masks from their homes, leading to the creation of “350 COVID-safe jobs.” The women produced more than a million masks for local villagers. In the wake of COVID-19, the Desai Foundation also handed out “1 million pads to local communities, hospitals, COVID care centers and rural women” to address period poverty.

Through the ongoing commitments to address period poverty in India, girls and women are one step closer to living productive and prosperous lives.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in HondurasIn 2019, almost half of the Honduran population lived on less than $5.50 a day, placing Honduras in the second-highest spot for poverty prevalence among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Poverty in Honduras disproportionately affects women — the female unemployment rate is nearly double that of males. Due to high levels of poverty, many Honduran women and girls struggle with period poverty in Honduras, which stands as an economic and social barrier to accessing feminine hygiene resources.

Period Poverty and Education

Lack of adequate menstrual hygiene products causes girls to miss school. A 2017 study found that 66% of Honduran students dropped out of school between sixth and 10th grades. In Latin America, 43% of students with periods prefer to skip school while menstruating. Another component of period poverty is the lack of menstrual education. A 2015 study found that 48% of mothers and 40% of adolescent girls in Honduras had not received education on why women menstruate. Despite the prevalence of period poverty in Honduras, organizations are working to eradicate this issue. One such organization is Pink Box Purpose.

What is Pink Box Purpose?

Pink Box Purpose is a Christian nonprofit organization, founded by sisters Heather Wittig and Jenni Patnode, that provides hygiene, medical care, food, housing and schooling to Hondurans in need. A significant portion of Pink Box Purpose’s work involves providing free feminine care products and menstrual hygiene education to Honduran women and girls.

Wittig’s first-ever trip to Honduras inspired her to found Pink Box Purpose. While handing out feminine hygiene kits to women in the town of Olanchito, Wittig met a local teacher named Alba Carcamo who wanted to make the kits more accessible to her community. Two months later, Wittig, along with Patnode and three other women, returned to Olanchito to establish a reusable pad workshop, the “Hygiene Headquarters,” in a local community center. The Hygiene Headquarters employed five local women who took on the responsibility of sewing and distributing the pads.

Since the establishment of Pink Box Purpose in 2017, the organization has uplifted women and helped reduce period poverty in Honduras. Pink Box Purpose has distributed more than 8,000 pads to women and girls across the country. The team of local women has expanded from five 12 members, with the organization also employing three in-country liaisons.

How Does Pink Box Purpose Receive Support?

Many Pink Box Purpose supporters host pad-cutting parties during which the host and the host’s guests help cut fabric that will be sent to Hygiene Headquarters for the team to turn into pads. Pink Box Purpose provides a party kit, which includes fabric patterns to follow. The cost of the pad party kit helps support the women working at the Hygiene Headquarters.

Pink Box Purpose accepts donations directly on its website. Additional financial support through its “Gifts2Give” page helps to provide specific resources to the organization, such as sewing machines and feminine hygiene bags.

Although period poverty is still prevalent throughout Honduras, through Pink Box Purpose’s work, fewer women face this barrier. As this organization and other similar initiatives continue to do this important work, period poverty in Honduras may decline in the years to come.

 – Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Lebanon
In a world where many people within underdeveloped nations struggle to afford even their next meal, the issue of period poverty runs rampant. In Lebanon, specifically, a country experiencing what the World Bank describes as “one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s,” the issue of period poverty in Lebanon is a growing concern.

What is Period Poverty?

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) defines period poverty as “the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products.” However, one can also use the term in a more broad and all-encompassing way. Period poverty also refers to any increased financial vulnerability a group of people may face strictly due to menstruation. As the country of Lebanon sinks deeper into economic and financial turmoil, period poverty in Lebanon has reached an all-time high. According to local Lebanese organization Dawrati, as much as 66% of adolescent Lebanese girls cannot afford menstrual products to properly manage their menstruation.

Overall Poverty in Lebanon

The official Lebanese currency, the Lebanese pound, is facing severe devaluation due to several factors such as corruption, crippling debt and the lack of foreign currency circulation in the country. This financial issue plunged the Lebanese population further into poverty. According to the Observatory, “the cost of food has soared by 700% over the past two years” with the potential to increase further in 2021.

The United Nations indicates that the Lebanese multidimensional poverty rate has drastically increased from 42% of the population in 2019 to 82% in 2021. Now, a significant portion of the Lebanese population earns unlivable wages, leaving most families stuck below the poverty line.

As necessities such as food and medicine become scarce and more difficult to afford, people who menstruate view menstrual products as luxuries they simply cannot afford. Due to inflation, the price of menstrual pads and products increased by 500%. This increase, in addition to the severe decrease in the value of incomes in Lebanese households, makes period poverty in Lebanon a major issue.

The Challenges Lebanese Girls and Women Face

By attempting to substitute menstrual products with more accessible alternatives, Lebanese girls and women put themselves at risk of infections and health complications. With more than 66% of girls and women in Lebanon unable to afford menstrual products, this substitution is a common reality. More than half of women in Lebanon have reduced their consumption of pads, opting for less sanitary options to manage their periods.

Lebanese women are increasingly replacing menstrual products with children’s diapers, old pieces of cloth or fabric and even newspapers. In addition to health concerns brought about by unsanitary methods of managing periods, period poverty in Lebanon also impacts the education of girls. Many adolescent girls skip school due to a lack of menstrual products, impacting their overall education and prospects for future success.

Taking Action Against Period Poverty in Lebanon

Even though the situation concerning period poverty in Lebanon is challenging, organizations are rallying to support Lebanese people who menstruate. “Dawrati,” which translates from Arabic into “menstruation cycle,” is one of the most prominent non-governmental organizations addressing period poverty in Lebanon.

Dawrati began in May 2020 and its efforts include distributing thousands of menstruation kits, maternity kits and first-time period kits to Lebanese people in the nation’s most vulnerable areas. The organization participates in many collaborative projects with other non-governmental organizations to ensure access to menstrual kits countrywide. The organization is partnering with the Zovighian Partnership to gather data on precise period poverty statistics in Lebanon. This comprehensive research will inform Dawrati’s lobbying efforts and “help Dawrati finalize its policy proposal to end period poverty in Lebanon.”

Looking Ahead

As Lebanon’s economy continues to deteriorate, it remains important to focus on addressing period poverty as issues affecting girls and women often go overlooked by governments. Period poverty in Lebanon is a serious concern, however, many individuals and organizations continue to support the country’s most vulnerable people with the resources they need to properly manage their menstrual cycles.

– Nohad Awada
Photo: Flickr

Ending Period Poverty
Unfortunately, 1.2 billion women and adolescents cannot afford menstrual products each year. Period poverty can encompass the lack of water, sanitation, hygienic products and education, putting women of all ages at risk. Approximately 500 million women and adolescents have trouble accessing menstrual products in developed and developing countries, including Liberia. Here is some information about the state of period poverty in Liberia.

About Period Poverty in Liberia

Periods do not only take a physical toll on women and adolescents, they also impact women’s mental health. This particularly occurs when these women are just hitting puberty.

Joyce Nimely, an alumnus of Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES), shed light on how mental health and periods align with one another. The Liberian native said that “I learned that menstruation causes serious problems for women and girls physically and emotionally. It results in mood swings, it is painful, and causes changes in the body.” Nimely defined the most detrimental aspect of period poverty, the lack of access to menstrual products. This challenge frequently leads to women and girls missing out on work and school.

Limited Hygiene Products

A lack of hygienic products causes one in five girls to skip school or drop out to avoid chances of ruining their only school uniform or because this fact caused their uniform to be ruined. In the country, the majority of women have suffered from gender violence at home. Period poverty increases the risk of experiencing gender violence by 20%, with women and adolescents staying home because they do not have the essentials to maintain their period.

One in four women struggles to purchase period products. Joyce Nimely addressed what girls and women do if they cannot access hygienic products in her YES program story. The Alumnus wrote that “Many young girls in Liberia don’t have money to buy sanitary products because of its high price. Girls and women often end up using materials like newspapers, tissue, and rags. These materials cause womb cancer, infections and other diseases that may hinder pregnancy or childbirth.” However, the desperations for fundamental human rights go further than what Joyce Nimely mentions. A lack of period products leads Liberian women to use corn husks, dirtbags and animal feces as alternative products for maintaining cycles. These homemade period products lead to poor health and death because Liberian women cannot stay clean without hygienic materials and do not always have proper education on self-care.

The #GiveAPad and #FreeThePeriod Campaigns

Women from Liberia have developed organizations to help Liberian women and girls. Joyce Nimely strongly believes that menstruation should not get in the way of a girl’s education. This influenced her to build a team of Liberian people who previously worked in the YES program or had an interest in ending period poverty. The group formed the #GiveAPad and #FreeThePeriod campaigns. These campaigns consisted of them going door to door to receive donations of traditional and reusable sanitary pads.

Nimely described the origin story of her movement stating that “With the knowledge I had in making reusable sanitary pads, I realized it’s an asset that could be used in the mission to end period poverty because it could serve as an alternative when regular pads aren’t available…Since I wouldn’t always be available to make pads for these girls, my team and I decided to teach them how to make their own reusable sanitary pads.” Thus, Joyce Nimely and her team selflessly taught valuable skills that would improve the lives of multiple girls in her home country.

Miss Therchie Williams and the Miss Philanthropy Africa Initiative

Miss Therchie Willams from Maryland County, Liberia, toured 22 communities in Liberia to distribute sanitary pads and educate other girls about menstrual hygiene. She was able to do this with the help of the Miss Philanthropy Africa Initiative. This nongovernmental organization teaches women to advocate and improves the quality of life for low-income women and children of Africa. Miss Philanthropy focuses on empowerment, the value of creations and the progression of platforms that impact Liberia’s development.

Another woman who stepped up to the plate is Grace Clarke. Grace Clarke grew up in Monrovia, Liberia getting a first-hand experience of period poverty. Clarke said “That was definitely an experience that made me understand the significance of the lack of pads and period products of my hometown. It was something I could relate to.” Clarke is now the founder of PADS for Girls, and with the help of her sister, she was able to get 176-period products in nine Liberia communities.

Period poverty in Liberia is prevalent leaving Liberian women and girls at risk, but various organizations are restoring their human rights one step at a time.

– Alexis Jones

Photo: Flickr