By: Fauzia Haque, Contributing Writer
Period poverty is defined as the insufficient supply of menstrual hygienic products and education. It is a global crisis affecting girls all around the world. Without the proper education, sanitary materials, and facilities, stigma and shame around the normality of the menstruation process have grown.
Because of cultural and social stigma, children around the world miss school days simply because they have a lack of access to menstrual products. Two out of three girls in other countries may miss days out of school because of their periods. Eight hundred million people around the world menstruate daily, and yet, these young girls and women are the same ones missing out on school and work every day to give themselves better access and a healthier environment than they might find at work or at school. In 2014, at least forty-two million women faced impoverishment; many of whom are experiencing humiliation and indignity of being unable to care for themselves during their menstruation cycles. A study done in 2019 reinforces this statement as two-thirds of the women did not have the capability to afford menstrual products whereas one-fifth of the women surveyed do not have the ability to afford menstrual hygiene resources on a monthly basis. Globally, 2.3 billion people worldwide live without access to menstrual hygiene products and basic sanitary facilities; in developing countries, only twenty-seven percent of people have adequate handwashing facilities, which prevents adolescents and women from practicing safe menstrual methods at home with self-esteem. Minorities even within the female population are further ostracized with stigma and reduced dignity when it comes to menstruation. Children with special needs and disabilities have severely disproportionate access to feminine hygiene products and facilities that they would need to manage their periods.
In the United States alone, thirty-five states impose taxes on feminine hygiene products as they view them as luxury, non-essential products that need the imposition of sales taxes. Tampons have their own tax established, deemed the “pink tax,” that causes unaffordability for young girls and women around the world. It also stigmatizes the biological differences within genders and causes more opportunities for gender-based discrimination. According to UNICEF, families in Bangladesh disproportionately have access to menstrual hygiene products. Those who have access cannot even afford it. Most girls and women in Bangladesh and other developing countries have to utilize old clothing in order to care for themselves around the time of their periods. In India, only twelve percent of the female population have menstrual products available to them, leaving the rest to opt for hazardous and unsafe materials.
Poor access and pricing for menstrual hygiene products have become severe obstacles to education, careers, and overall personal lives. This prevents more female involvement and encouragement from crucial opportunities and deprives them of vital information that could help them with their futures. Missing out on such experiences leaves young girls vulnerable to early, arranged marriages, which can constitute miscarriages, violence, and an overall unhappy life to maintain. The unsafe usage of other materials have been associated with reproductive and urinary tract infections and diseases. The stigma and shame associated with menstruation and periods can also have adverse effects on mental health. The disempowerment revolving around the menstrual process causes embarrassment and social anxiety over a normal biological process.
The first step in trying to eradicate such harshness and stigma that causes indignity and humiliation and embarrassment is to destigmatize and educate boys and girls about the menstruation process and how it truly is a normal biological occurrence that is supposed to happen. Eliminating these taboos can alleviate legal policies around menstrual hygiene products and pave the way for the future generation to abolish such laws in order to allow access and increase affordability for these products that are essential for women. The world should emphasize and prioritize menstrual equity policies to establish and implement more empowerment movements for girls who need it.
Link to cover image: https://johnschronicle.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/dgt.jpg