WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Menstruation is a normal, natural process and in theory, there should be absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about and yet, so many of us have those special boxes or pouches for sanitary pads and tampons tucked away from plain view. Who can’t relate to hiding sanitary items in our sleeves or inside our waistbands pockets or carried discreetly in purses to our workplace bathrooms to “take care of business”? It seems absurd that we go to such lengths to keep our periods on the down-low.
Now, what if you didn’t have access to menstruation care products to take care of yourself at all? We need more dialogue and more education that menstruation should NOT be taboo. We also need to make sure that essential items that help us care for ourselves during our periods should be available for all women.
Period poverty is an injustice that has to be solved. Period. Menstruation is not a choice and if we get our periods, we need to have personal products to take care of it. Many adolescent girls and women around the world are in no financial position to afford menstrual materials. Former Chief of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene at UNICEF Sanjay Wijesekera states that “Meeting the hygiene needs of all adolescent girls and women is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity, and public health.” Women shouldn’t have to choose between affording food for their children and being able to buy period products to take care of themselves.
Female hygiene gaps are not a woman’s shame, they are the shame of every nation for allowing women and adolescent girls to experience the indignity of not being able to adequately care for themselves during their periods. Poor menstrual hygiene can cause physical health risks and has been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections and it also stops women from reaching their full potential when they miss out on opportunities such as education and being cut off from employment that is crucial to personal well-being, stability and growth.
Inequities related to menstruation are a global challenge and in the U.S., 36 states have a tax on period solutions because they are considered “nonessential” goods. Individuals who consistently menstruate from puberty to menopause, on average, have their period for 2,535 days of their life. As people who have periods, we know it certainly does not feel luxurious when we’re experiencing it. Menstruation products are not a luxury so why are these necessary items being taxed as a nonessential items?
There’s no valid argument against not having pads and tampons provided for free in the workplace or public washrooms in public spaces wherever we may need them. Toilet paper is supplied for free to address natural bodily functions and feminine hygiene products are just another necessary sanitary item that is needed to address different natural bodily functions. Imagine what men would say if they had to bring their own toilet paper everywhere? Wouldn’t happen and it’s not a thing for them.
It’s time to eradicate the taboos around menstruation and make menstrual hygiene products less sexist and more free. There are many avenues we can take to support the cause and raise awareness about period poverty. We can affect change at our regional levels and improve conditions for women around the world who struggle to purchase period products due to lack of income.
Each of us can contribute to create an environment of period positivity and period equity. We can easily use our social media to post support, raise awareness and help spread the word by advocating online. Below are organizations and links to where you can learn more and connect with those who are leading the charge.
How can you help?
- Days for Girls: Provides opportunities through menstrual health solutions and education around the world
- The Period Purse: Aims to provide menstrual equity with access to free products and education to reduce period stigma
- Period.org: Gives period packs to those in need, education that changes the way we talk about periods, and raising awareness on period poverty
- Freedom4Girls: Equips girls in Kenya with sanitary products so they don’t have to miss school
- #PeriodPotential: A petition to introduce access to free sanitary products in UK schools
- Red Box Project: Seeks to provide free menstrual products in local schools in the UK
- Bloody Good Period: Gives menstrual products to those who can’t afford them by supplying asylum seeker drop-in centres
- Femme Aid Collaborative: Provides monthly menstrual products to nonprofit agencies in Dayton
- UK government: Has committed to ending period poverty around the world by 2030
- Alliance for Period Supplies Provide tools, links and resources for community advocacy.
- At The Pad Project Their goal is to ensure that every menstruator can attend school through placements of pad machines and washable pad programs.
If you’re in the US, sign this petition, share it with your friends — and let state legislatures that profit from your period know that you won’t stand for it.