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homeless women in cornwallPeriod poverty means a woman or girl is unable to afford sanitary products to properly manage menstruation. In 2017, research showed that a tenth of girls in Britain could not afford period products. About 15% of girls struggled to afford period products, including homeless women. Period poverty complicates girls’ lives and denies girls many opportunities. In Cornwall, located in Southwest England, many homeless residents are women facing period poverty.

Period Poverty among Homeless Women

In the United Kingdom, about 280,000 people face homelessness. Within this figure, a sizable number are women who sleep in a visible and vulnerable place and struggle to access period products. According to research published by The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies, homeless women interviewed described their periods as “emotional” and “painful” and connected with poor mental health. Women who face homelessness require rest and privacy during their period and often find it highly challenging to meet these needs.

Women experiencing homelessness often face difficult choices. For instance, they often conceal and hide their periods and use toilet paper as a substitute for sanitary products. Other options include “survival shoplifting” in order to have necessary period products for the month. Another issue is that some homeless shelters do not offer period products regularly because these products are not seen as a basic necessity.

The Story of Bimini Love

At the age of 15, British teenager Bimini Love started the project Street Cramps in order to provide “sanitary products, clean underwear [and] heatpads” to homeless women in Cornwall. Bimini’s passion and efforts started when she recognized an alarming increase in the number of homeless women where she lived. She learned about the pain period poverty caused for homeless women. This issue started her research on period poverty among homeless women and the lack of basic sanitary needs. Period poverty for homeless women can be particularly difficult to address.

In response to this issue, she began Street Cramps. Bimini went online and started a fundraiser to get more money to pay for more products and raised more than £7,000 on Crowdfunder. She worked to get period products to homeless women in Cornwall. Her initiative led her to contact homeless shelters in her area to ensure homeless women in Cornwall had access to certain period products, expanding her efforts and outreach along the way. Today, Street Cramps projects are spreading to different cities as well.

Recognition and the Future

In 2019, Bimini won the Points of Light award and was acknowledged by the Prime Minister for improving the lives of many women facing period poverty. Bimini also spoke about period poverty among homeless women in Cornwall in her TedX Talk, “Street Cramps: a 15-year-old tackles period poverty.”

While Bimini raised a large sum of money and helped women in need, the fight continues. Street Cramps proves that homeless women do not have to endure period poverty without support. Moving forward, efforts like Bimini’s can alleviate both pain and suffering while deepening community ties.

Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Unsplash

Period Products Bill in ScotlandOn November 24, 2020, a groundbreaking moment occurred that changed the struggle against period poverty. The Scottish Parliament passed the Period Products Bill in Scotland. This new bill guarantees free access to necessary hygienic period products to all who require them. Member of the Scottish Parliament, Monica Lennon, championed the fight against period poverty in Scotland and played a significant part in passing this revolutionary legislation.

Ending Period Poverty in Scotland

Even with the United Kingdom being one of the world’s wealthiest countries, period poverty remains a recurrent problem. In 2018, more than 20% of those polled in Scotland stated that they either had limited or no access to period products. Another 10% had to sacrifice food and other necessities to afford them. One in 10 experienced bacterial or fungal infections due to a lack of sanitary products. These rates have gone up to nearly one in four during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new Period Products Bill in Scotland practically eliminates these problems. Accessibility to sanitary products must be made by the Scottish Government and organized countrywide. Public restrooms in educational institutions must contain a variety of period products without charge and it also allows oversight over local jurisdictions to ensure enforcement of the law.

Ending Menstruation Taboos

Menstruation has become a stigmatized topic worldwide, despite half the population experiencing it. The dangerous and outdated idea that periods are not appropriate for discussion and seriousness is damaging to those subjected to these taboos.

From South America to Africa, antiquated menstruation views have led to long-lasting negative consequences for those suffering from period poverty. In some cultures, menstruating girls and women must separate themselves from the rest of their community. In Nepal, so-called ‘menstruation huts‘ have dire consequences for women, with local organizations stating that many deaths associated with the practice go unreported.

The importance of ending taboos about menstruation is evident. The Period Products Bill in Scotland is a meaningful step to engage the rest of the world over these unsound presuppositions of menstruation and begin addressing period poverty globally.

Implementing Period Poverty Legislation Worldwide

There has already been worldwide attention brought to the neoteric Period Products Bill in Scotland. Lennon has been fielding communications from leaders and lawmakers around the world, ready to implement similar laws in their own countries. According to Lennon, “Scotland has provided a blueprint and shown how it can be done.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, logistical problems of supplying period products and economic suffering are causing governments to reevaluate the impact of period poverty. Countries with strong infrastructure can utilize Scotland’s approach to combat the worsening situation fast and effectively. The rest of the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia have already taken note of the problem and Scotland’s practical policy.

Ending Global Period Poverty

In underdeveloped countries, Scotland’s lead in the battle against period poverty can pave the way for education and destigmatizing menstruation. Poverty-fighting organizations can create similar international implementation plans in developing nations with little investment. Thanks to Scotland’s leadership, period poverty may soon become as antiquated as the stigmas surrounding it.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

3 Organizations Working to End Period Poverty in GuatemalaPeriod poverty in Guatemala weighs heavily on the country’s women and girls. The lack of access to hygiene management education and proper sanitation tools forces young girls out of school for days at a time. As young girls grow up in Guatemala, they are met with a challenge. Specifically, their menstruation cycle. Not only is this a milestone in their personal lives but also a limitation. The lack of access to necessary feminine products forces girls to stay home for days. However, as technology evolves and resources are found, many organizations are working to end period poverty in Guatemala and beyond.

Days For Girls

Days For Girls commits the scope of its work to support young women throughout their lives. The organization begins this process by providing a Days For Girls Kit, education on proper self-care, training and general support for girls. Additionally, the group spreads awareness through global partnerships, mobilizing volunteer networks and working toward normalizing menstruation.

The DFG Kit consists of many necessary items for a woman’s period. All the products are reusable, easily washable and durable. In fact, users say the items can last up to three years. These kits have been made to use a small amount of water, dry quickly and keep women comfortable while going about their daily lives. Furthermore, Days For Girl also handmakes the kits and the bags they come in, giving them a touch of beauty and personality.

The impact of this organization is felt by many. Thus far, Days For Girls has touched the lives of more than 1.7 million females. The organization’s reach is spread across more than 140 countries, with more than a thousand teams and chapters. The organization also has a main office stationed in Guatemala, focused on growing the team and production.

GRACE Project (Guatemalan Rural Adult and Children’s Education)

The GRACE Project is a collaboration of groups in Southwest Florida. The project aims to educate, train and help employ the local Guatemalan women as well as women in Guatemala. The organization develops and performs workshops and home visits in which educational materials on reproductive health and local resources are provided.

In addition to education, the GRACE Project creates handmade menstruation kits. All the products are reusable, washable, and long-lasting. Included in the kit are fertility bracelets with instructions, hields for any leakage, flannel cotton pads, soap, a gallon bag for washing use and underwear.

The hard work of these volunteers speaks for itself. In the past year, 500 of the kits were given to women all over Guatemala. Along with these, the organization has also passed out 800 Reproductive Health Kits within Central America. The fertility bracelet included in the kit is especially empowering for women as it gives them the protection they need. Moreover, the bracelet is 85% effective as a life long contraception. The GRACE Project continues to grow production and delivery methods through workshops in Guatemala.

SERniña

Founder Danielle Skogen, a teacher, lived in Guatemala for three years. While teaching she began to notice a pattern. She found a need for health and sanitation education, in particular among the girls. Often, Skogen would watch girls drop out of school due to a lack of access to proper sanitary items and a lack of support from their community. Thus, she developed SERniña as an educational support program.

The SERniña program works with already established educational organizations to educate young women and help end period poverty in Guatemala. The organization teaches a range of topics such as:

  • Understanding Your Human Rights
  • Sexual & Menstrual Health
  • Financial Literacy
  • Goal-setting

In the workshops, teachers empower young women to be confident and take care of their self-care needs. All of the organization’s lessons are taught by trained local women who are certified staff for SERniña. Ultimately, the program allows for conversations and participation in a safe space with specific lessons focused on self-advocacy, self-care and overall self-love. As a result, the program has delivered more than 400 hours of workshops to 180 girls and counting.

The efforts of these three organizations play an important role in ending period poverty in Guatemala. Education, access to resources and support are needed to help young women develop higher standards of living as ending period poverty will result in more girls staying in school. As the work to end period poverty in Guatemala continues, the government and non-profit organizations must help support local organizations like Days for Girls, the GRACE project and SERniña.

Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

Combatting Period Poverty in PakistanPakistan, a country in South Asia, has the world’s fifth-largest population and spans more than 800,000 square kilometers. Pakistan has a long history of period poverty, stemming from its patriarchal hierarchy. Periods are shameful in Pakistan and often result in the ostracization of women in Pakistan.

Period Poverty in Pakistan

Period poverty is a severe issue around the world and is especially prevalent in Pakistan. A large part of the problem exists as a result of the many taboos that surround menstruation. In Pakistan, menstruation is seen as making women impure and dirty.

As a result, Pakistan’s culture as related to periods has prevented the population from educating women on menstruation and proper hygiene. As such, period poverty in Pakistan extends beyond just the financial discrepancies that hinder women from having access to proper menstrual products and extends into a “social period poverty” wherein women are deprived of education about menstruation.

Misinformation of Menstruation and Hygiene Practices

U-Report found that 49% of young women in Pakistan have little to no knowledge of periods before their first period. Likely, more than 20% of young women will only learn about menstruation in schools.

The myths that exist around menstruation actively disempower women. Part of the issue is that menstruation can often be a sign of good health in women. Menstruation taboos prevent women from realizing underlying symptoms of health conditions.

Period poverty in Pakistan also results in misinformation about menstruation. Part of this is because information about menstruation is often kept away from women. After all, it is believed withholding information preserves women’s chastity. This incorrect premise often results in unhygienic and dangerous practices for women. Many women use rags and share these rags and menstrual clothes with family members. Sharing of these rags can increase the risk of urinary infections and other health conditions.

Innovative Programs Fighting Period Poverty

Recently, many people have taken the initiative to work toward mitigating period poverty in Pakistan. One such tool has been apps like Girlythings, an app that allows women with disabilities to get period products delivered straight to their door. Their products include an “urgent kit,” which contains essentials such as disposable underwear, pads and bloodstain remover.

Another such tool to fight period poverty in Pakistan has been initiatives like the Menstrual Hygiene Innovation Challenge. This project, launched by UNICEF WASH and U-Report, plans to encourage young men and women to pitch their projects to educate their local communities on menstruation. One such project taken on by this challenge was a three-hour live chat. During this live chat, around 2500 people asked questions about menstruation. This live chat not only began to break down the taboos that surround openly discussing menstruation but also increases everyone’s knowledge and understanding of menstrual health.

Period poverty is a prevalent problem in Pakistan. Affecting women from both a financial and a societal point of view, people must begin to change the conversation around periods to ensure that all women in Pakistan can access menstruation information and menstrual products. However, by harnessing technology and taking initiatives, citizens all around Pakistan can work toward mitigating period poverty.

Anushka Somani
Photo: Flickr

Women Are More LikelyGlobally, women are faced with the invisible burdens of gender inequality which are entrenched deeply within institutional structures and communities as a whole. These prejudices may limit a woman’s access to higher employment and assistance programs, ultimately leading to higher rates of poverty, especially among women of color. As of 2018, the poverty rate for women was 12.9% compared to the 10.6% rate among men. There are several reasons why women are more likely to live in poverty.

Educational Inequalities

In many developing countries, women are more likely to be denied an education, as nearly 25% of all girls have not completed primary school education and two-thirds of women make up the world’s illiteracy rate. In Somalia, for example, only 7% of girls are enrolled in primary school. The lack of education among women may result in higher pregnancy and poverty rates. According to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, a girl’s education is a driving force in their economic well-being. Somalia suffers from one of the world’s worst educational systems and is one of the poorest countries as well, having a poverty rate of 73%. With education, females can increase their access to higher-paying jobs, and thus, benefit the family’s income., which results in a positive cycle for generations, bettering the economy overall.

Women Are Paid Less

Despite having the same qualifications and working the same hours, women are more likely to get paid less than men. Worldwide, women earn nearly 20% less than men. These variances within wages affect women in low-paying jobs and poorer countries dramatically. Closing the gender wage gap can result in overall equal income distribution. In the United States alone, closing the wage gap would mean that half the poverty rate of working women and their families would be cut.

Period Poverty

Around the world, many females may suffer from period poverty: inadequate access to hygienic menstrual products and menstrual education. The lack of education is related to the stigma periods carry. Periods have been associated with immense shame for a long time and this stigma is carried throughout communities, deeply limiting girls’ opportunities. Globally, periods are the reason why girls are absent from school at a disproportionate rate, as two out of three girls in developing countries are skipping school during their period. In India, 23 million menstruating girls drop out of school annually because of a shortage in hygienic wash facilities and products. Without an education, females are less likely to obtain a high-paying job and escape poverty.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Exploitation

One in three females globally fall victim to some form of domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime. Girls and women who grow up in poverty are also at an increased risk of experiencing such crimes. Victims of domestic or sexual violence can be impacted through the degradation of their physical or mental health, loss of employment or are ultimately driven into homelessness. Globally, females lose out on nearly eight million days of employment every year as a direct result of violent acts committed against them. According to a survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, domestic violence was the root cause of women becoming homeless in half of all the cities surveyed.

Pregnancy

Economically, females are potentially burdened with the costs of pregnancy, including the additional fees of caring for a child, more significantly than men. Custodial mothers are twice as likely to be poor compared to custodial fathers. Further, unplanned pregnancies can be detrimental to a woman’s income as being unable to work immediately after giving birth means no pay, especially in the informal working sector. In the developing world, nearly 12 million girls aged 15-19 give birth each year, which often results in the end of the girls’ education and the beginning of child marriage. Children who are born from early pregnancies or marriages more often than not enter the same cycle of poverty and no education.

Organizations for Female Empowerment

Malala Yousafzai started the Malala Fund after members of the Pakistani Taliban shot her for advocating the right for girls to be educated. Since then, Malala has built her project into a global initiative that furthers the goal of providing free quality education to young girls in developing countries.

The Orchid Project is a global initiative to end female genital mutilation (FGM). The Orchid Project functions as a platform that raises awareness of the areas where FGM is most prevalent and advocates against the practice. The Orchid Project has brought together more than 193 countries with the collective goal of abolishing FGC by 2030.

Women for Women is an NGO that works to aid those who are in hostile conflict zones and are the victims of collateral damage. Women for Women helps to uplift these victims of violence by providing them with tools, support and education so that they may earn a living and remain stable through the direst of circumstances. Women for Women has helped more than half a million women in countries that have been directly impacted by war and conflicts.

Empowering Women Means Reducing Global Poverty

Females in developing countries experience complexities that restrict their development and progression. Organizations are helping to raise awareness of these complexities and aid women in need. Since women are more likely to experience inequalities that push them into poverty, empowering women ultimately means alleviating global poverty.

– Maya Falach
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual StigmaMillions of women and girls around the globe are affected by period poverty every day. Countless women must choose between food and menstrual products. Due to insufficient access to menstrual products and/or menstrual stigma, schoolgirls often miss school when they are on their periods. Some teenagers even use unhygienic insoles of shoes to substitute menstrual products, which may lead to further physical health risks due to bacterial infections. Moreover, other women resort to free contraceptive injections (which stops the release of an egg) when they cannot afford menstrual products. This, in turn, leads to health risks such as significant bone mineral density loss.

People widely consider period poverty as insufficient access to menstrual products. While this accounts for a major portion of period poverty, the term also refers to issues of shame, menstrual stigma, and the lack of education about menstruation. Around 50% of girls in the U.K. experience menstrual shame and around 70% of girls in Uganda are embarrassed and fearful about menstruating.

Access to Period Products Worldwide

Globally, a minimum of 500 million women experiences period poverty, every month. Among the 355 million menstruators in India, 12% cannot afford period products. Similarly, 65% of females in Kenya are unable to afford menstrual products. Menstruation products are extremely difficult to access because of their high costs. This, even though these products are a necessity. They are perceived as luxury products to millions because many countries still do not accept the products as “daily necessities” and still have not abolished the value-added tax (VAT) on menstrual products. The 2020 tax rate on menstrual products in Hungary marked 27%, followed by Sweden with 25% and Mexico with 16%. Some of the countries that abolished VAT on menstrual products include Malaysia, Lebanon, Tanzania, Ireland among others.

Effects of Menstrual Stigma

Women and girls face period stigma every day. Menstrual stigma causes women and girls to feel embarrassment and shame about their healthy bodies. Furthermore, it keeps them at home when they should be at school — affecting their education and social life. In Nepal, the community expels menstruating women to huts when they are on their period cycles because menstruators are perceived as impure. In Uganda, 70% of girls feel embarrassed to be on their periods and are afraid of menstrual-related accidents. This fear is such that more than 50% of the population skips school to avoid teasing from classmates. In the U.K., 50% of girls feel ashamed of their periods. One anecdote shared that a girl and her classmates suffered great embarrassment when a male teacher taught them about menstruation.

The Pink Protest

Many nonprofit organizations are actively fighting against period poverty. Other than NGOs, period poverty activists create many campaigns that also work toward ending period poverty. Based in the U.K., The Pink Protest works with period poverty activists on the #FreePeriods campaign, to “call on the British government to put an end to British period poverty.” A teenage activist, Amika George, initiated the #FreePeriods campaign in 2017 after she read a report by BBC that 10% of girls cannot afford menstrual products in the U.K. On a winter day in 2017, the campaign gathered 2,000 people to protest. People held up signs saying “bleeding is not a luxury,” “ditch tax on Tampax,” “we are not ovary-acting” along with many celebrities and period poverty activists giving impactful speeches. This included model Adwoa Aboah, Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom Jess Phillips, comedian Deborah Frances-White, period poverty activist Chella Quint, and more.

The Pink Protest has accomplished to become a part of the change of two U.K. laws. Also, they acknowledge that engagement of young people and the utilization of online activism have helped them in this goal. The Pink Protest is a good example of how society can utilize social media to fight period poverty. With their weekly Instagram series ‘On Wednesdays We Wear Pink and Protest,’ The Pink Protest encourages young people across the globe to take one action each week. In this way, young people may become activists, themselves. The Pink Protest hopes that as it provides an exciting and easy way to involve people in activism (through regular campaigns and video series), they can “redefine what activism means to young people”. In this way, they can “create a way for activism to be not just accessible, but also fun.”

The Role of Social Media

According to The Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans use social media and 90% of the people aged 18–29 use at least one social media site. It is also surveyed that 90% of teenagers aged 13–17 have experienced social media and 51% visit social media sites, daily.

The U.N. also discussed the power of social media and how it can help to reduce period poverty. According to the U.N., social media has the power to raise public awareness and get people more involved. As mentioned previously, period poverty is about insufficient access to menstrual products and menstrual stigma. Therefore, openly sharing information about this via social media, which many teenagers and young adults use, can reduce menstrual stigma. Sharing information through posts and infographics alone are good ways to educate others and increase attention to period poverty. Social media engages young people to become period poverty activists. Consequently, this increases the chance that young people become more compassionate and active with menstruators. The millions of women struggling from period poverty around the world stand to benefit greatly.

Alison Choi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Protesting Period Poverty in ThailandThailand’s taxation of menstrual products has contributed to period poverty in Thailand. Pads and tampons have a 7% value-added tax. If a Thai woman earning minimum wage uses five pads a day, she spends more than 12% of her daily salary on menstrual care. Many working-class women experience period poverty in Thailand, which means their income is too low for menstrual care.

Gender Equality in Thailand

Thailand is one of the most gender-equitable countries in Asia, yet women are not represented in the government, police force or military and are excluded from certain schools in each sector. The leader of the 2014 coup, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, runs the national committee of gender equality but has sparked protests for his “male supremacy” actions.

Since July 2020, pro-democracy rallies have erupted in Thailand, millions demanding a voice in the government after the military seized power in the 2014 coup and rewrote the constitution to control the 2019 elections. In Thailand, people caught criticizing the king are sent to jail, so the protestors are risking their freedom.

Women are the main organizers, speakers and participants, and they use the platform to expose gender inequality. Some issues they protest include reproductive rights, the price of menstrual products, sexist school dress codes, the wage gap and rape culture. The pro-democracy rallies turned into Thailand’s first gender-political movement, one feminist pointing out to The New York Times.

At a protest in August 2020, activist Kornkanok Kamta said, “We cannot claim to be a true democracy when decisions about our bodies and reproductive health are still controlled by the government.”

Sunny Cotton

Kesinee Jirawanidchakorn operates a brand called Sunny Cotton that produces and sells reusable pads. When she sold her products in Chiang Mai, a city in Thailand, older women approached the booth excited to see that the cloth pad was coming back in style. In hopes of breaking the stigma around menstruation, Jirawanidchakorn’s company encourages women in Thailand to talk about their periods.

The Sunny Cotton cloth pads are slightly more expensive than disposable ones, but they are much cheaper in the long run. Customers will never again feel the anger and oppression of paying taxes on a basic necessity, and the products are luxurious and sustainable, making the one-time tax seem reasonable. Sunny Cotton also boosts Thailand’s economy by creating jobs as Chiang Mai villagers make the products. In the future, Jirawanidchakorn plans to donate the products and share her period knowledge with girls, underprivileged women and women in prison.

Looking Ahead

Eventually, Sunny Cotton hopes to uplift Thai women out of period poverty by giving them free access to pads and the confidence to talk about their periods. Period poverty in Thailand is just one aspect of the patriarchy that protestors hope to dismantle. While organizations like Sunny Cotton are working to alleviate period poverty in Thailand, more action needs to be done to lift women out of poverty and establish gender equality.

– Rebecca Pomerantz
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in TanzaniaMenstruation is a natural and essential part of human life. For women facing period poverty in Tanzania, lack of access to menstrual management products and sanitation facilities can result in lost opportunities for work or education.

Periods and Poverty

Over 50% of the Tanzanian population does not have access to improved sanitation and clean drinking water is often limited. Without access to menstrual hygiene products, information and adequate sanitation services, women and girls are at risk for poor physical or reproductive health. Lack of proper sanitation contributes to lower girls’ attendance in school and limits opportunities and potential for women in Tanzania.

Fighting Period Stigma

Ending the taboo around menstruation is an important step toward ending period poverty. There is a lot of misinformation about periods and Tanzanian women are made to feel ashamed about themselves and their bodies. Due to period stigma, girls are often ridiculed when their periods catch them off guard.

Education on menstrual and reproductive health is one of the most empowering tools to combat period poverty in Tanzania. Many organizations have made it their mission to end gender-based discrimination and destigmatize female hygiene. For example, the Maji Safi Group aims to teach young girls to embrace their bodies and help them reach their fullest potential as academics and as mothers. The organization’s comprehensive approach includes community outreach, after school programs, employing Tanzanian women as community health educators and providing learning materials.

Affordable Products

Managing menstruation is expensive and disposable sanitary products are a luxury that vulnerable women in Tanzania cannot afford. In recent years, world leaders have committed to creating change in the country by investing in the menstrual hygiene product industry. For instance, the World Bank partnered with an entrepreneurial enterprise called WomenChoice, which manufactures and distributes affordable menstrual hygiene products. WomenChoice further empowers women from low-resource backgrounds by offering vendor, sales agent and volunteer positions. The micro-enterprise serves as a model for other organizations seeking to keep girls in school and end period poverty in Tanzania.

Impact of COVID-19

The closing of schools in Tanzania due to the COVID-19 pandemic may compound the challenges of period poverty throughout the country. Worldwide disruptions limit access to essential sanitary products in the country as well as information about sexual and reproductive health. However, UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, has made the fight against period poverty an essential part of their pandemic response efforts by maintaining open access to its centers, information and services in the country during COVID-19.

Continuing the Fight Against Period Poverty

The government of Tanzania has partnered with UNICEF and pledged to dramatically increase access to sanitation over the next five years. This step will not only help keep girls in school but also help them reach their fullest potential and escape period poverty. While there is still much more work to be done, ongoing efforts by the government, international partners, communities and organizations help make a brighter future possible for Tanzanian girls and women.

Rachel Moloney
Photo: Flickr

period poverty
Period poverty is an umbrella term that refers to the inaccessibility of feminine hygiene products, education, washing facilities and waste management, especially for menstruators with low incomes. Menstruators who lack the education or access to resources for safe period management often resort to risky methods such as using rags and clothing, which can lead to bacterial infections that can cause further physical health risks.

Today, there are over 800 million women and girls that have periods every day, yet they still face difficulties to properly manage their menstruation. According to UNICEF, 2.3 billion people across the globe live without basic sanitation services in developing countries. Meanwhile, 73% of people lack access to proper handwashing facilities at home.

COVID-19 affects menstrual health and hygiene by exacerbating pre-existing inequalities regarding period poverty worldwide.

COVID-19 and Period Poverty

As stated by Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International U.K., “the virus is making the situation worse. We already know that the coronavirus outbreak is having a devastating impact on family finances all over the world, but now we see that girls and women are also facing widespread shortages and price hikes on period products, with the result that many are being forced to make do with whatever they can find to manage their period.”

The disruption of global supply chains and ceased trading of smaller-scale private sector enterprises has led to product shortages. This shortage is the primary issue affecting women’s access to safe sanitary products. The price of sanitary products has also increased during the pandemic. It is extremely hard for families to afford these products since the pandemic has also affected household incomes.

“As most shops have run out, I sometimes have to substitute in different ways instead,” said a teenage girl from the Solomon Islands.

“Prices went up as soon as there was a confirmed case of COVID19 in Fiji. Sometimes I have to forgo buying hygiene products as money will have to be used on food and bills,” said a young woman in Fiji.

Stigmatization of Menstruation

Most of the world stigmatizes menstruation. Social stigmas and taboos about menstruation is another key factor that prevents women and girls from properly managing their periods. In Nepal, people perceive menstruating women as impure. Their community expels them to huts for the duration of their cycles. In Uganda, non-governmental agency WoMena showed that many girls skip school when they are on their periods. The primary reason: to avoid teasing from classmates.

Since the rise of COVID-19, some people have associated menstruation as a sign of illness. Although having periods is normal and healthy, there are myths stating that menstruation is a symptom of the coronavirus and that menstruators have a higher chance of infecting others. These myths are badly affecting period poverty by increasing the stigma of menstruation. The negative perceptions of menstruation, such that it is a symptom of an illness and that it should be something to hide from others, should change in order to stop period poverty.

A young woman from the Solomon Islands said “Sometimes [I feel shame]. Especially when I am not able to clean myself during water cuts. I feel embarrassed to walk around my family.”

Organizations Making a Difference

I Support The Girls is an organization that collects and distributes bras and menstruation products to people who need them around the globe. The organization mentioned that it has seen a 35% increase in requests for menstrual products, bras and underwear since the outbreak of the virus. In response, the organization collected and distributed over 2,000,000 products, partnered up with businesses to distribute surplus inventory, and more.

Plan International U.K. is another organization that fights period poverty; it distributes menstrual hygiene kits to support women and girls disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Alison Choi
Photo: Unsplash

Bahamian Charities Combating COVID-19Last year, Hurricane Dorian brought massive destruction to The Bahamas. The damage was unlike anything the islands had ever witnessed before, leaving around 70,000 Bahamians homeless. Although much of the Bahamian infrastructure is leveled, resilient islanders were quick to begin reestablishing their livelihoods. Now the outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill, slicing through The Bahamas’ tourism economic sectors. Paired with the global shortage on toiletries and PPE, the citizens of these popular vacation islands are withstanding two pandemics; fortunately, however, local charities have stepped in a major way. Here are three Bahamian charities providing life-saving aid through these times of struggle.

3 Bahamian Charities Combating COVID-19

  1. The Dignified Project: People living in poverty around the world already struggled to obtain supplies and health services. Now that stores and public transports are closed due to natural disasters and the virus, combined with rising prices and economic uncertainty, the impoverished are facing even greater hurdles. But imagine a massive shortage of essential items that help manage the natural disposition of the body. No, not toilet paper. Think more on the lines of tampons. It’s called period poverty. One major, yet underrated stifle for the economic development of menstruating women is the lack of access to hygiene products that help manage menstrual health. The Dignified Project is a nonprofit organization that provides young girls with feminine hygiene products. Not only do they provide these essential items for free, but they also educate young girls in The Bahamas on building confidence, demonstrating body positivity and increasing awareness of health and “social concerns related to their biological development.” According to its Instagram page, The Dignified Project offers two kits: bras, underwear and other essential undergarments; soap and tampons or pads. Phillipa Dean, the initiative’s founder, reported that the organization has been distributing products more frequently due to heightened demand from COVID-19, which first ravaged the country on March 15.
  2. The Bahamas Light Industries Development Council (BLIDC): The Bahamas Light Industries Development Council (BLIDC) is an organization formed by and for Bahamian manufacturers and producers. The organization’s aim is to “promote and expand, and to preserve and protect light industries operating in the Bahamas.” In the past, members of the BLIDC, alongside other companies like bakeries and breweries, have rendered services to non-governmental organizations by aiding struggling households and communities. Although businesses like BLIDC are not fully performing manufacturing functions, these Bahamian charities still ensure access to food and beverages. Upon hearing about the recent shortage grits, a prominent food staple in Nassau, the BLIDC reached out to island partners in search of resources. In addition to supporting local businesses, the BLIDC donated what was harvested to the Bahamas Feeding Network.
  3. Hands for Hunger: Volunteer drivers are delivering food packages to Bahamians in need. According to its website, Hands for Hunger has delivered more than 150,000 pounds of food to 40 agencies since the dawn of COVID-19 in March including senior living homes, children’s homes and churches. As a result of this organization’s efforts, more than 2,100 Bahamians are being assisted bi-weekly with approximately 400 families having received food assistance over a three-month period.

Between natural disasters, a pandemic and pre-existing struggles with poverty, the Bahamas undoubtedly have several unique challenges left to work through. However, with continued support from passionate Bahamian charities, there is promise for the nation to repair itself in the near future.

– Katrina Robinson
Photo: Flickr