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period poverty in the U.K.
Period poverty happens when people are unable to afford or access proper period products due to low income. The average period lasts around five days, costing Scottish people around $10 a month for period products. Period poverty is a global issue that is not receiving enough attention. The U.K. is the first country to take significant steps to reduce period poverty. Here is some information about period poverty in the United Kingdom.

Period Poverty in the United Kingdom

In 2020, more than 2,000 people took a survey in schools, colleges and universities around Scotland. The results showed that one in four respondents was unable to access period products.

According to a Plan International report from 2017, a British children’s charity, period poverty affects one in 10 British girls aged 14 to 21. Furthermore, 49% of girls across the U.K. admitted to having missed a day of school because of their inability to access period products.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Period Poverty

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, period poverty in the U.K. has increased. Before the pandemic, low-income British residents often accessed period products through schools or community centers. However, after the lockdown, they no longer had such access.

Bloody Good Period and Freedom4Girls, founded in 2016 and 2017, respectively, are two national charities that focus on improving the accessibility of period products and reducing the stigma around periods. Bloody Good Period distributes products to 40 drop-in services and groups in the U.K. and to more than 2,000 people each month. In 2020, both charities saw drastic increases in their products’ distributions. Before the pandemic, Bloody Good Period typically distributed around 5,000-period packs a month, but the number grew to 23,000 in the three months after March 2020. Similarly, Freedom4Girls’ production increased fivefold.

Scotland’s Efforts to Alleviate Period Poverty

In 2020, Scotland made history as the first country to make period products free for all. Monica Lennon, a member of the Scottish Parliament, introduced the Period Products Bill, which passed in November 2020. Lennon has been fighting for an end to period poverty since 2016 and was finally able to gain significant attention for the cause in 2020, when more girls began to suffer from period poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Scottish government funded the period poverty campaign with 5.2 million euros. Of this money, the government set half a million euros aside to deliver free period products to residents of low-income neighborhoods.

Additionally, the U.K. government has created its own period poverty task force. The task force’s main goals are to destigmatize periods, educate people on periods and ensure that period products are widely accessible.

The Red Box Project

Similarly, in Portsmouth, England, three women decided to start a movement to end period poverty. They sympathized with low-income teenage girls who could not afford period products and recognized that period poverty impacts both current and future mental health and well-being. It started its campaign, the Red Box Project, in March 2017. The Red Box Project fills red boxes with pads and tampons and gives them to schools. The Red Box Project has placed boxes in more than 2,200 schools, colleges and youth clubs. As word of the project spread, its founders started to push for governmental action against period poverty. As a result of national efforts, in January 2020, Britain’s Department for Education made period products freely available to all state schools and colleges in England.

The actions that some are taking to reduce period poverty in the United Kingdom should provide other countries hope as they fight similar battles. With passionate, driven residents and new legislation, women around the world can begin to live in peace.

Shamolie Panjwani
Photo: Flickr

Organizations Fighting Period PovertyLack of access to menstrual products impacts many girls and women in both the developing and developed world. Having a period without access to proper sanitation products can hurt a girl’s educational and life opportunities. However, these four organizations fighting period poverty are providing access and empowerment to girls and women in need.

Top 4 Organizations Fighting Period Poverty

  1. PERIOD
    Highschoolers Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand founded PERIOD in 2014 to combat period poverty and period stigma. Okamoto was inspired to help launch the nonprofit after dealing with homelessness as a teen. Homeless women often lack access to menstrual products because they cannot afford them or because shelters do not have enough products to go around. Today, PERIOD has more than 300 chapters that help distribute period products around the world, and so far, 510,181 women have been served by PERIOD’s work. The nonprofit is also fighting to eliminate the luxury tax on tampons and pads in the U.S. and abroad.
  2. Freedom4Girls
    Founded in 2016 by Tina Leslie, Freedom4Girls was inspired by Leslie’s experience working with the charity Maji Safi Projects in Kenya. During her time there, Leslie helped with Maji Safi Projects’ period poverty campaign, which consisted of creating sewing workshops for local women, making washable, reusable menstrual pads and delivering the pads to schools in the semi-rural area of Mombasa. The project also provided reproductive and menstrual education to girls and women in the community. Currently, Freedom4Girls provides menstrual products to 30 schools in the U.K. in order to increase girls’ abilities to go to school and participate in extracurricular activities while on their periods, since often, teachers are tasked with supplying menstrual products to their students. Freedom4Girls also works with community groups and other organizations fighting period poverty to host “Donation Stations” in order to collect menstrual products for other vulnerable groups, such as refugees.
  3. Dignity Period
    Dignity Period is a prime example of women’s empowerment and women’s health coming together to improve lives. In 2014, Fulbright Scholar Dr. Lewis Wall spent eight months improving residency education in gynecology and obstetrics at Mekelle University’s College of Health Sciences in Ethiopia. During his time there, he and his wife met Freweini Mebrahtu, owner of the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory. Seeing that period poverty was an issue that could be resolved through outreach, education and empowerment, Wall and Mebrahtu partnered to create Dignity Period. Today, Dignity Period partners with Mekelle University to conduct studies about the socioeconomic and cultural impact of periods and to provide education; at the same time, the nonprofit provides reusable menstrual pads to community members through Mebrahtu’s factory, which trains and employs women in the area.
  4. Days for Girls
    Days for Girls (DfG), like other organizations fighting period poverty, provides reusable menstrual products for girls in need. However, it is unique in the way its menstrual products are created and how they impact communities. Days for Girls has developed menstrual product kits that are provided to women and girls in need. Each DfG Kit is sewn by volunteer individuals or chapters and begins as a Portable Object of Dignity (POD). PODs include one waterproof shield and two absorbent liners and serve as gateways to the creation of small businesses for local women. PODs are extremely affordable and can be easily adapted to the needs of the customer, meaning that women in developing countries can use PODs to start and grow their own micro-enterprises selling DfG Kits. There are five kits currently distributed by Days for Girls: the POD, DfG POD Plus, Supreme DfG Kit, Heavy Flow DfG Kit and the Menstrual Cup Kit. Each kit contains reusable menstrual pads, a washcloth, a drawstring bag, panties and other essentials for a dignified period.

Women and girls around the world face the impacts of not having access to menstrual products and reproductive education. Absences from school, decreased opportunities for socioeconomic mobility and loss of dignity are only a few of the struggles faced by those living in period poverty. As a result, organizations fighting period poverty are taking a stand to empower these women and improve their futures.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Gender Inequality
In our patriarchal society, many underserve and underappreciate women in several aspects of life. Gender inequality ranges from the gender-pay gap to genital mutilation, transcending geographical and cultural differences. These 10 facts about gender inequality display the overarching themes of inequalities that women face and cope with around the world.

10 Facts About Gender Inequality

  1. Lack of Basic Education: In 2014, 263 million children were not in school. At the primary level, 31 million girls did not attend school compared to 29 million boys. Poverty and family income are often driving factors in whether or not girls have the opportunity to attend school. Other factors such as violence, living in remote, inaccessible areas and child marriages can also heavily impact female retention in schools. Increasing female education level is imperative to the positive growth and development of an individual, a family and a country.
  2. The Prominence of Child Marriages: As of 2014, 700 million girls are coerced into marriage before the age of 18. If people force girls into marriage at an early age, they are more likely to drop out of school as well as get pregnant early, which can contribute to physical and mental health hazards. Girls Not Brides is an organization committed to resolving child marriages around the world by keeping governments accountable. It also implements new policies and programs and increases the visibility of the issue.
  3. Increased Pregnancy Complications: Pregnancy and childbirth complications increase as income decreases. Stressors such as financial instability or crowded, polluted living spaces make infant mortality two-thirds higher compared to a higher income area. In addition to infant mortality, half a million women and girls die from child deliveries and complications each year.
  4. Battling Menstruation Stigma: Menstruation is a hormone-based process that signals female fertility. However, in countries such as Venezuela and rural Ghana, communities ostracize girls and women during menstruation. In Venezuela, communities force menstruating women to sleep in huts and in Ghana, communities forbid women from making contact with men. Furthermore, in underprivileged areas, menstruating women often do not have access to sanitary napkins which can cause infections. However, Freedom4Girls, a charity dedicated to removing the stigma around menstruation, is taking action by providing environmentally-friendly, reusable hygiene products to women in poverty.
  5. Culture of Domestic Violence: Domestic violence occurs due to unequal power dynamics within a partnership with approximately 85 percent of domestic violence victims as women. The practice of a patriarchal culture empowers abuse and violence against women, leaving low-income women at a higher risk of staying in violent relationships.
  6. Underreporting of Sexual Assault and Rape: Rape is highly underreported and repeatedly under-prosecuted with one in five women experiencing unwanted sexual contact in their lives. The underreporting of these crimes is frequently the result of fear related to public shaming, officials doubting their situations and further harm from the perpetrator. Women who experienced rape may also experience short-term or long-term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, therefore, putting mental health at risk. Victims of rape or sexual assault may resort to RAINN, an organization committed to improving the criminal justice system for sexual assault cases, increasing visibility for sexual violence and providing victim-focused services.
  7. The Dominance of Females in Human Trafficking: Human trafficking encompasses the enslaving of humans into unwanted labor or sexual activity. In 2014, 80 percent of enslaved humans brought across international borders were women, funding a multi-billion dollar industry and remaining as one of the largest illicit crime operations. Because of the pervasiveness of human trafficking, a multitude of organizations around the world are working to end this issue including the Polaris Project in the United States, Prajwala in India and COSA in Thailand.
  8. Existence of Female Genital Mutilation: Cultures perform female genital mutilation due to a series of cultural ideals where the female body must remain pure and clean. For example, some cultures believe that female genital mutilation will ensure virginity and fidelity by removing the “unnecessary” areas that promote pleasure. As many as 200 million girls have undergone the practice in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. 28 Too Many works to terminate these practices in the countries of Africa through extensive global data research, policy changes and community engagement.
  9. Marginal Female Leadership Representation: In more privileged countries, the number of females in leadership roles is dramatically lower than male counterparts considering the same level of education. Women account for 52.5 percent of the college-educated workforce with 57 percent of undergraduate degrees and 59 percent of master degrees. For example, in the financial industry, 61 percent of accounts and auditors are women, however, only 12.5 percent of chief financial officers in Fortune 500 companies are women.
  10. Unequal Economic Participation: Society has historically ingrained the idea of unequal economic participation and the entire world demonstrates this. Multiple countries possess laws to make it difficult or impossible for women to own land. Even though females represent half of the world’s population, less than 20 percent of the land is owned by women. Owning land is important for female economic development such as improved access to loans as well as educational development. Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights recognizes the benefits of land ownership and is devoted to reforming laws and policies and developing programs to include women’s land rights.

These 10 facts about gender inequality demonstrate how one aspect of female suppression could lead to another. For example, girls who do not have the privilege of receiving a basic education could become vulnerable to teenage pregnancies or child marriages, which could further lead to pregnancy complications and compromised wellbeing. Women constantly face unjust and unequal circumstances that suppress rights to their own bodies, property or financial stability. Although many organizations such as Girls Not Brides, Freedom4Girls and Polaris Project have successfully come together in an effort to counteract multiple harmful practices and beliefs, it is important to recognize inequalities in everyday life and break the cycle of female suppression.

– Angela Dong
Photo: Flickr

Period PovertyOftentimes when we think of poverty, food insecurity and homelessness come to mind. What we don’t necessarily think about is the inability to afford toiletries and items such as tampons and pads – and, the reality is, people are often too ashamed or embarrassed to bring up the topic of menstrual cycles. Forty million women and girls around the world are affected by period poverty, and the silence must come to an end. Here are five facts about period poverty that are important to talk about:

  1. A year’s supply of sanitary products in the United States costs more than $70. In the U.K., there is a five percent tax on period products – in total, sanitary products cost over 5,000 pounds in a lifetime.
  2. Lack of affordability and information have led many young women to use only one tampon per day or one pad for multiple days. When proper products are not available or affordable, women are often forced to use alternatives such as socks, dishrags and newspapers during their cycles.
  3. Lack of menstrual hygiene can lead to very serious health risks such as Toxic Shock Syndrome, a life-threatening illness. In Bangladesh, India and many other countries, infections and cervical cancer are also results of poor hygiene.
  4. Many girls from low-income families around the world are skipping school because they cannot afford tampons or pads. Missing school during menstrual cycles has been a well-known pattern in developing countries, like Kenya, for years. Now, the reality is setting in that this is a trend for low-income girls everywhere, including the Western world.
  5. The stigma surrounding periods has been shown to directly affect a girl’s potential to succeed. If a girl misses school every time she has her period, she is set 145 days behind her fellow male students. Even then, most girls in the developing world choose to drop out of school altogether rather than face the embarrassment and shame of being unprepared for their periods.

Unfortunately, many people fail to recognize the effects that period poverty have on young women and girls. In times of uncertainty, sanitary needs come secondary, or even tertiary, to finding food and shelter. While this is understandable, a few organizations such as Freedom4Girls and Bloody Good Period, and many others, are fighting back against period poverty.

One of the biggest defenses against period poverty is to start a conversation and stop the stigma.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr