Have you ever started your period and had to use a dirty rag in order to control the bleeding?
The answer for most people would most likely be “no.” But for some women who live below the poverty line, and cannot afford products such as pads or tampons, this might be their only option when that time comes.
Every woman, at some point in their life, will experience the feeling of getting their period. Depending on the stage in one’s life, the start of a menstrual cycle can be exciting or disappointing. No matter what emotion is expressed, every woman should be able to have access to the necessary products that make the week more comfortable and manageable for them. With the continuing rise of inflation, consumers are forced to spend more money on products than they are used to. According to an article written by BMC Women’s Health, it is estimated that over 500 million women are not able to afford menstrual products. The term that refers to this specific struggle is called period poverty.
It is also important to note the programs that are made for low-income individuals such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do not allocate funds for menstrual products. This fact alone increases the relevance of the issue in society and provides more explanation for the figure mentioned above.
Women who experience period poverty are vulnerable to feeling the negative effects that come along with this dilemma. These effects can include mental and physical issues.
Without having access to the necessary products, it can make an individual feel as if the natural menstrual cycle is something to be embarrassed about. This is especially relevant in young girls who are more prone to insecurities and judgment from peers. Growing up in period poverty has been known to lead to feelings of sadness and even depression. In some cases, young girls are not even educated on what to do and what it means when their period comes. Additionally, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many young girls were not able to have access to the free products that were provided at their place of education and were forced to use other methods.
Regarding one’s physical health, not using clean and safe products can lead to a decrease in hygiene for the individual. By using unsanitary methods for one’s period, it can lead to a higher risk of contracting infections. These infections can include a urinary tract infection (UTI) or bacterial vaginosis. Now the person who could not afford the right products in the first place has to experience even more discomfort and has to spend more money on getting rid of the infection.
After going over what period poverty is and how it affects women, the question now is what can people do to help this issue.
How Can You Help?
- Talking About Periods: This is the most obvious option and one that every individual can partake in, even men. Talking about it can normalize the natural cycle of menstruation and can lead to individuals feeling less embarrassed about something they can’t avoid in the first place. The only reason a period can cause shame is because society has given it the power to do so. By redirecting the conversation to a more positive feeling, it takes that power to embarrass an individual away.
- Becoming More Informed: Individuals can research period poverty and have a better understanding of the issue at hand. The more people that know about this issue, the easier it will be to spread awareness. People are then able to help by voting towards policies that will help in decreasing the number of women who experience this.
With the knowledge of this issue and ways one can help, the hope is that the number of 500 million women facing period poverty will continue to decrease.