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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

Girls Education in Ethiopia
Home to 102 million people, Ethiopia is the second most populous nation in Africa, possesses the fastest growing economy in the region and is also one of the poorest countries. Girls’ education in Ethiopia is largely affected by the present poverty; in fact, it is one of the main barriers to girls’ and women’s education. There are socio-cultural factors — social norms and traditional practices — gender-based violence, early marriage, and teenage pregnancy that greatly affect girls’ and women’s access to, and completion of, education.

Offering basic education is one effective way of providing girls with power, autonomy and independence to make genuine choices over the lives, their families and their community. These top ten facts about girls’ education in Ethiopia address the difficulties these girls face, as well as the improvements in recent years that benefit Ethiopia as a whole.

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in Ethiopia

  1. For every hundred boys in secondary school, there are only seventy-seven girls.
  2. Only 17 percent of women are literate, whereas 42 percent of men can read and write.
  3. Females only make up 27 percent of the university population, a quarter of whom will drop out before graduation.
  4. The fear of sexual favoritism limits girls’ freedom of participation and interaction with others in school settings.
  5. Primary school attendance rates have risen from 30.2 percent in 2000/01 to 64.5 percent in 2010/11.
  6. The primary school enrollment rate of girls has increased from 21 to 49 percent in the last two decades.
  7. The education of girls contributes to higher economic activity as Ethiopian women are more likely to give back to their communities.
  8. The education of girls results in lower infant mortality and morbidity, lower fertility rates and the attainment of longer life expectancy for both men and women.
  9. There is a greater likelihood that the children of educated girls will become educated themselves.
  10. Receiving an education means girls can avoid long work hours and work towards a better future, instilling self-empowerment.

Impacts of Girls’ Education

These top ten facts about girls’ education in Ethiopia shed light on the importance of education for the well-being of these girls and this region. An educated girl in Ethiopia is more likely to avoid early marriage, seek healthcare and become a more independent and well-off individual.

With this independence, a girl will become more involved in her community and prepared for future decision-making. She will also have an increased chance of being accepted into a higher-paying job and could then reinvest 80-90 percent of her wages back into her family and community, aiding in breaking the cycle of poverty.

GirlUp

Girls and women in Ethiopia have seen successes due in part to organizations such as GirlUp — the United Nations Foundation’s adolescent girl campaign. The organization aims to give adolescent girls in developing countries an equal chance for education, health, social and economic opportunities and a life free from violence.

Since refugee families in Ethiopia are not allowed to work, girls are oftentimes unable to attend school as families cannot afford the costs of school uniforms and books. With the help of GirlUp, the United Nations is working to make sure that Somali refugee girls in Ethiopia are healthy, safe and educated. This program not only provides Ethiopian girls with school materials, solar lamps to study at night, toilets and access to water, but it also provides scholarships for girls to attend school.

– Angelina Gillispie

Photo: Flickr