Periods can be uncomfortable, embarrassing and expensive. One box of 32 tampons in Bucharest, Romania, costs 15 lei or approximately $3.61. Although this may seem like a small price to pay, the typical female “uses 20 regular tampons per cycle – and therefore 240 per year,” meaning that the average woman spends an estimated $27 per year on menstrual products, a hefty sum for families living in poverty. For this reason, period poverty in Romania is significant.
Period Poverty in Romania
According to period poverty hero and activist Irina Vasilescu, “in Romania, menstruation is a big taboo but at the same time very subtle.” There are many myths surrounding periods and much secrecy regarding what type of products women and girls should use to prevent visible bleeding. Vasilescu recalled the many instances where she educated youth on menstruation, mentioning that parents often asked for the curriculum to remove demonstrations on how to use pads and tampons from the curriculum. Parents wanted their children to know what a period is but not how to utilize the very methods designed to prevent the shame that many people associate with getting a period.
Effects of Period Poverty
Despite many misconceptions, the inability to afford menstrual products is not the only definition of period poverty. Lack of access to period products such as tampons, pads and wet wipes is also a significant part of the problem. Regarding period poverty in Romania, many homeless women or low-income families struggle to afford menstrual products and turn to old rags such as cut-up socks, underwear or t-shirts to prevent blood from seeping through their clothing. When many girls in Romania first get their periods, they simply abstain from attending school for fear of experiencing public ridicule. This is problematic because young girls are forfeiting their education due to a lack of access to feminine hygiene products. After all, it is no secret that generations of societal shame have indirectly taught women and girls to feel disgusted by a natural process of their bodies.
Pe Stop Addresses Period Poverty in Romania
Pe Stop is a Romanian NGO that emerged to provide women and girls with feminine hygiene products as well as accurate information regarding menstruation to reduce common misconceptions surrounding periods, including the idea that utilizing tampons can take away girls’ virginity. Volunteers run Pe Stop, managing “packaging, acquisition, distribution” and “field trips for fundraising campaigns.” The packages that those suffering from period poverty in Romania receive contain masks, menstrual pads, disinfectant gel and sometimes wet wipes, condoms, underwear and dry wipes. Again, since this NGO runs on a volunteer basis, Pe Stop depends heavily on funding and donations to survive and provide for the public.
Pe Stop has managed to sustain itself through its “education first” initiative. Conducting classes to teach women and girls about proper menstrual care leaves them with a lasting knowledge on the subject that they can continue to pass on from generation to generation. Vasilescu mentions that even if funding were to dry up, “no one can take the information on how to take care of yourself properly in any situation. If you receive the information once, it stays with you.”
Although it can be uncomfortable to discuss, menstruation signifies womanhood. Thankfully, organizations such as Pe Stop recognize the issue and are aiding period poverty in Romania through education. As more people become aware of the myths of menstruation and learn the tools necessary to make the transition to womanhood as seamless as possible, knowledge surrounding periods will become normalized and the negative stigma that many people associate with periods will evaporate.
– Sara Jordan Ruttert