Period poverty in Mauritius exists due to the unaffordability of menstrual products, leading girls and women to resort to unsanitary alternatives such as handkerchiefs, pieces of fabric and newspapers. The stigma surrounding menstruation accentuates the issue of period poverty in Mauritius. Organizations such as The Ripple Project are taking action to make menstrual supplies more accessible and raise awareness about the importance of proper menstrual hygiene to maintain good health.
A Barrier to Gender Equality
According to a UNDP article in 2021, in terms of gender equality, Mauritius ranks in the top six in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the existence of period poverty in Mauritius stands as a barrier to further gender equality advancements. In 2017, gender equality activist Trisha Gukhool started a petition for the Mauritian government to provide free menstrual products to girls and women.
In the 2017-2018 budget reform, the Ministry of Finance announced the removal of taxes on pads and tampons. Unfortunately, even without tax, period products are still unaffordable for impoverished and disadvantaged girls and women in the country.
Female activists in Mauritius have continued to advocate for free menstrual products. The non-governmental organization Raise Brave Girls, which Prisheela Mottee founded, set up a petition for the national budget 2021-2022 to prioritize the distribution of free period products to vulnerable women and school girls. The petition also calls for menstrual leave that is not deductible from annual sick leave.
The petition, which gathered more than 5,000 signatures, saw some success. The Ministry of Finance announced that girls from grades six to 13, registered under the Social Register of Mauritius, would receive free sanitary pads.
The Ripple Project
The Ripple Project is an initiative that activist Djemillah Mourade-Peerbux set up in 2016 after realizing that the expense of sanitary products is one that many Mauritian girls and women cannot afford. At the time, about 1,000 Mauritian rupees could only buy basic hygiene products for two people.
Fast forward five years and the project became an association, devoted solely to fighting menstrual taboos and providing menstrual products to women and girls experiencing period poverty in Mauritius. Mourade-Peerbux collects monetary and menstrual product donations and distributes them to shelters across the island.
The association also takes into account the power of advocacy. The Ripple Project runs campaigns to raise awareness about period poverty and the importance of menstrual health. Mourade-Peerbux is advocating for the free period product allowance to extend to all females, even those who are not part of the Social Register of Mauritius.
The Ripple Project team relies on partners and donors to secure and distribute period-related products to hundreds of women throughout the year. The feminine hygiene brand Saforelle is supporting The Ripple Project through a campaign. For every intimate hygiene cleanser sold, Saforelle will donate three Mauritian rupees to The Ripple Project. This campaign will run until December 31, 2022, The Ripple Project’s Facebook page says.
Although progress is visible, period poverty in Mauritius is still an issue. Advocacy and campaigns will continue until all Mauritian girls and women have constant and reliable access to menstrual products. By dissolving the stigma surrounding menstruation and extending access, further progress could be visible.
– Alexandra Piat