Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities, and waste management. This issue affects individuals who cannot afford or access these basic necessities during their menstruation cycles. It is a significant issue in many parts of the world, including low-income countries and some high-income countries.
Period poverty can have negative impacts on a person's physical and mental health, education, and economic opportunities. For example, without access to menstrual products, individuals may be forced to use unsanitary materials like rags, newspapers, or leaves, which can cause infections and other health problems. Additionally, those who cannot afford menstrual products may miss school or work during their periods, which can lead to a loss of income or educational opportunities.
To address period poverty, organizations and individuals work to increase access to menstrual products and education, and advocate for policies that support menstrual equity. This can include providing free or low-cost menstrual products, improving access to toilets and hygiene facilities, and reducing stigma surrounding menstruation.
Why are period products a luxury?
Menstruating is a basic fact of human existence. Menstrual hygiene products are necessities, not luxuries, and should be treated as such.
An estimated 30% of girls in South Africa do not attend school while they are menstruating because they cannot afford sanitary products.
Many women menstruate monthly for an average of 40 years of their lives. In many countries, like South Africa, women do not have access to the sanitary products they need each month. Period poverty in South Africa affects girls and women by preventing them from working and going to school. This creates stigma surrounding periods and has a negative effect on their overall hygiene. However, several organizations are working to combat each of these components of period poverty.
Since up to 7 million South African girls do not have access or cannot afford to buy sanitary products, many of them must stay home. Many also report using old clothes and newspapers as sanitary pads when they cannot use sanitary products meant for periods. This is unhygienic and can cause other health problems and infections. Often, girls and women must choose between buying food and sanitary products because of the costs. When faced with this difficult choice, many choose to purchase food as it takes more of a priority. As a result, many must face the health and social consequences of not having sanitary products.
Research conducted by Stellenbosch University
Period Activist in Ronell Hartman
Project Manager Montse Domínguez i Munllonch