Erin Burchill ‘25, Entertainment Editor
Each month, nearly one fourth of the world’s population menstruates. These people come from all different cultures, financial backgrounds, and genders, yet 500 million people who menstruate lack proper access to sanitary products and education. This struggle has been dubbed ‘period poverty’, and is a more significant issue than some may think.
Period poverty is mainly caused by poverty—hence the name. Food stamps in the U.S. do not cover period products, and people in developing countries often cannot afford to take care of their period in a hygienic way. Because of this, these people are forced to use unsanitary items in place of pads and tampons, or do nothing other than free-bleed.
The country of India is heavily impacted by period poverty and stigma around menstruation. Only 12 percent of Indian women have access to sanitary period products, one of the lowest rates in the world. While Hindu texts say nothing regarding menstruation, many Indians who practice the religion consider women and girls to be dirty, disgraceful, and impure while menstruating. Some communities in Nepal exile women to huts while they are menstruating for this same reason.
Many African countries also have serious struggles with expensive and inaccessible products. In Namibia, many families cannot afford proper menstrual products, and must use cloths or newspapers from their home as replacements. Some even resort to free contraceptive injections, which are not recommended for preventing menstruation. In the period poverty documentary Pandora’s Box, Christine Khamasi, a Kenyan ambassador for the organization Days for Girls, opened up about being forced to engage in transactional sex to be able to afford tampons and pads, as many other girls in her country have had to do.
This issue hits even closer to home. Nearly 43 million Americans live below the poverty line, and some of these people have to choose between buying food or buying expensive period products. Twenty-seven U.S. states still have a pink tax—which raises the price of period products—even though these items are not a luxury. Apart from state laws, schools across the country often do not provide free period products in bathrooms, which causes issues not only for students who are from poorer families, but also for people who may have irregular menstrual cycles.
Not only are period products inaccessible to some, proper education about menstrual hygiene is, as well. Proper knowledge of period care and hygiene is crucial to health, as misconceptions and misinformation can cause confusion and improper care. Namasiku, a teenage girl from Namibia, told BBC that “I thought I was having a sore, or maybe I’m wounded.” Not only can schools fail to teach proper menstrual health, parents can also misinform their children about menstruation. South Lyon community member Suzanne Cullen said, “I had to ask one of my [friends] what to do. My mom told me it’s like when a chicken lays an egg, so I literally thought I was going to lay an egg. Also, I was scared because I didn’t start at a regular age like my friends did. I thought something was wrong with me…and my mom didn’t talk about it.”
Proper sanitary items such as tampons, pads, and menstrual cups are necessities for nearly two billion people, yet many are not having this need met. It is shocking that menstruation has been around since the dawn of humanity, but we still have not found a way to ensure that everyone can access safe precautions and products for their period. PERIOD is one of the most prominent organizations fighting against period poverty; you can visit period.org to learn more about the issue and their cause.