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Period Poverty ‒ A Global Crisis With Local Solutions

Written by: Dr. Khushali Trivedi, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Imagine not being able to afford basic necessities like food or shelter, but also having to choose between buying menstrual products or buying other essentials. This is the reality for millions of women and girls around the world who experience period poverty.

International Women's Day is a time to celebrate the achievements of women and girls around the world, and to reflect on the ongoing struggles that still face us. One of the most overlooked issues affecting women today is period poverty – the lack of access to menstrual products, education, and sanitation facilities. Period poverty not only has a negative impact on women's health and well-being but also on their economic opportunities and potential. On this International Women's Day, let's take a closer look at the economic impact of period poverty and what we can do to address it.


The global scale of period poverty


Period poverty is a global issue that affects women and girls in both developing and developed countries. According to a report by the World Bank, an estimated 500 million women and girls worldwide lack access to adequate menstrual hygiene facilities. In many countries, menstruation is a taboo subject, and menstrual products are considered a luxury item, rather than a basic necessity. As a result, women and girls are often forced to use unsanitary materials like rags or leaves during their periods, which can lead to infections and other health problems. In addition, the stigma surrounding menstruation can lead to social isolation and discrimination, which can further limit women's economic opportunities and potential.


In developing countries, period poverty has a particularly significant impact on girls' education. According to a study by Plan International, one in ten girls in Africa misses school during their period, which can lead to a loss of up to 20% of their education. In India, only 12% of menstruating women have access to sanitary products, and 23% of girls drop out of school once they begin menstruating. In Kenya, a study found that 65% of schoolgirls could not afford menstrual products and missed up to four days of school each month. This can have a long-term impact on girls' education and career opportunities, limiting their ability to reach their full potential.


Period poverty in developed countries


Period poverty is not just a problem of developing countries. It is also prevalent in developed countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries in Europe. Women and girls who cannot afford menstrual products often miss school or work, which can lead to lost income, reduced productivity, and limited career opportunities. According to a study by Plan International, one in ten girls in the United Kingdom cannot afford menstrual products, and 49% have missed an entire day of school due to their period. In the United States, a survey by Thinx found that 1 in 3 women have experienced period poverty, and 2 out of 5 women have struggled to afford menstrual products.


Menstrual products are subject to sales tax in 33 states in the United States, which adds an additional financial burden to women who already struggle to afford these products. This has led to a growing movement for menstrual equity, which aims to ensure that menstrual products are affordable and accessible to all women and girls. The movement has been successful in some places, such as California, where legislation was passed in 2019 to provide free menstrual products in schools.


The economic impact of period poverty


The financial burden of period poverty is not limited to the cost of menstrual products. Women and girls who cannot afford these products often resort to using unsanitary materials like rags, which can lead to infections and other health problems. They may also have to pay for medical treatment as a result of these health problems. Moreover, the stigma surrounding menstruation can lead to social isolation and discrimination, which can further limit women's economic opportunities and potential.


Addressing period poverty is not only a matter of social justice but also of economic efficiency. By ensuring that women and girls have access to affordable and adequate menstrual products, we can help them to stay healthy, stay in school, and stay in the workforce. This, in turn, can have a positive impact on economic growth and development.


What can we do to address period poverty?


There are several steps that governments, businesses, and individuals can take to address period poverty. These include:

  • Removing sales tax on menstrual products: Governments can remove sales tax on menstrual products, as has been done in countries like Canada, India, and Australia. This can make these products more affordable and accessible to women and girls.

  • Providing free menstrual products in schools and public facilities: Governments and businesses can provide free menstrual products in schools, libraries, and other public facilities. This can help to ensure that women and girls have access to these products when they need them.

  • Investing in menstrual education: Schools and community organizations can provide education and information about menstruation, including proper hygiene practices and the importance of menstrual products. This can help to reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation and increase awareness of the importance of menstrual hygiene.

  • Supporting menstrual product donations: Individuals and businesses can support organizations that donate menstrual products to women and girls in need. This can help to ensure that women and girls have access to these products, even if they cannot afford to buy them.

Period poverty is a serious issue that affects women and girls around the world. It has a negative impact on their health, education, and economic opportunities. Addressing period poverty requires a multi-faceted approach that includes removing sales tax on menstrual products, providing free menstrual products in schools and public facilities, investing in menstrual education, and supporting menstrual product donations. By taking these steps, we can help to ensure that women and girls have access to the menstrual products and resources they need to thrive, both personally and economically. On this International Women's Day, let us commit to working together to end period poverty, and to create a more just and equitable world for all women and girls.


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Dr. Khushali Trivedi, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Khushali Trivedi holds a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in women's health at Texas Women's University. She is a co-founder at VediKh Care, a non-profit organization that strives to promote healthcare equality. Dr. Trivedi is a passionate women's health activist who is dedicated to ending period poverty and improving the overall quality of life for women. Her research interests include studying postpartum depression, pelvic pain, and other critical women's health issues. By investigating and addressing these challenges, Dr. Trivedi aims to contribute to a better understanding of how to promote women's health and well-being.

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