Period poverty is an issue that affects many women and girls around the globe. In the Southeast African country of Mozambique, females are at increased risk of facing this issue — in 2014, about 63% of the population, or 16.7 million people, lived under the international poverty line, the World Bank reports. In response, several organizations are taking action to address period poverty in Mozambique.
What is Period Poverty?
Menstruation is a natural part of the female biological process. However, due to the grand cost of menstrual products, including underwear, sanitary pads/tampons and pain relief medication, many impoverished women and girls cannot afford to properly manage their menstruation.
Though little data and statistics exist regarding period poverty in Mozambique, the cost of pads and tampons in neighboring African countries gives a relative indication of the costs in Mozambique. In Zimbabwe, it would cost about $2 for a pack of the most affordable sanitary pads. To put things into perspective, the average monthly wage for a Mozambican is $11.84 in 2023. Considering that many people need more than one pack of pads during a menstrual cycle, this purchase can interfere with other necessary expenses.
The Impact of Poverty
From 2002 to 2014, Mozambique experienced progress in reducing multidimensional poverty. However, data reveals that between 2019 and 2020, that progress reversed. Households in Mozambique suffering from multidimensional poverty increased from 32% to 46% during this time. Due to rising rates of poverty, menstruating girls and women struggle to afford basic hygiene products required for the maintenance of their period. “Without proper menstrual hygiene in place, particularly in warm, humid climates throughout Mozambique, girls and women are at greater risk of infections with impacts on their physical and mental health and well-being,” the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says.
In the fight to resolve period poverty in Mozambique, in 2019, the Government of Mozambique and UNFPA provided “dignity kits” to more than 16,500 girls and women in Mozambique who cannot fund these resources themselves, according to UNFPA. A “dignity kit” includes menstrual pads, bath soap, multiple pairs of underwear, detergent powder, sanitary napkins, a flashlight, toothpaste, a toothbrush and a comb. UNFPA reports that it distributed 484,000 dignity kits across 18 countries in 2017.
Additionally, HELVETAS Mozambique has attempted to address menstrual stigma in the country. HELVETAS arranged a campaign in May 2022 called “Social and Behavioral Change for the Adoption of Good Management Practices for Menstrual Hygiene.” In collaboration with the Chiúre District Government, the event raised awareness of this topic in local communities. The initiative is important considering that “Poor menstrual hygiene management affects the dignity, mobility and confidence of girls and women, thus compromising access to education, health, hygiene and economic development and ultimately overall progress toward achieving gender equity and equality,” HELVETAS says.
Period poverty is a global issue affecting women and girls everywhere. And a vital component of positive progression is education. Hence, if all people, regardless of gender, are educated in every country about the issues arising from period poverty, the taboo and stigma surrounding it could decrease.
– Katerina Petrou