Updated: Jan 17
Every year 800,000 women and girls die due to the lack of clean water, basic sanitation, and hygiene. Women and girls need: safe drinking water adequate sanitation menstrual hygiene facilities
Millions of girls all over Africa experience period poverty, which includes a lack of access to period products, education, hygiene facilities, and more. As well as impacting their health and well-being, period poverty can also have permanent impacts on a girl's education and her entire future.
Period poverty is a problem in high as well as low- and middle-income countries: For example, it is a widespread problem in Kenya – with UNICEF finding 7% of women and girls that they surveyed relying on old cloths, pieces of blankets, chicken feathers, mud and newspapers. 46% used disposable pads and 6% used reusable pads (Oppenheim, 2018).
This is the reality for a lot of women and girls all over Africa. While data about the issue, and particularly how it impacts girls in Africa, is generally lacking, one 2016 UNESCO report estimated that 1 in 10 girls in sub-Sarahan Africa miss school during their period — by some estimates, this means a girl can miss up to 20% of a school year.
Because of this, their performance in school suffers, with some girls even dropping out of school completely, lowering their chances to increase their earnings and standard of living, and affecting their entire future.
Causes of period poverty Research shows that period poverty affects several low-income women due to a variety of causes, as noted in the sections below: Lack of access to sanitary products The literature focusses more on girls’ lack of access to menstrual care - a point raised by Bobel (2019:13), who adds that “meanwhile, a more holistic view of menstrual experiences and their impact on physical, psychological, and social realities fades from view” (Bobel, 2019:13). Kenya: It has been reported that girls are forced to have in sex in exchange for sanitary products: “New exclusive research” by UNICEF found that 65% of females in Kibera – an area of the capital of Nairobi which is one of the largest urban slums in Africa – had traded sex for sanitary pads, due to the prevalence of period poverty and the shame, stigma and public health misinformation which surrounds menstruation (Oppenheim, 2018). However, reports that girls have sex with boda boda (motorcycle taxi) drivers because they have power, money, and access to the product have been disputed: UNICEF Kenya3 state that UNICEF data has been
Period Poverty in South Africa
Around 7 million South African girls in 2022 still struggle to access sanitary products, according to the South African Minister for Women. When a Menstrual Health Management Symposium in Johannesburg occurred, reports stated that period poverty is a human rights issue that people must strive to resolve.
Coachability foundation through our project Bloody Toll aims to support those who menstruate in South Africa by equipping them with sound knowledge regarding periods and period poverty and providing them with practical resources to combat it. In December 2022, CF gifted 100 women in various shelters gift boxes containing menstrual products and other goodies.
Period Poverty in Ghana
In Ghana, data collected in 2016 showed that 95% of girls sometimes miss school due to period poverty. Within Ghana, factors that contribute to this include the taboo surrounding menstruation – with some local beliefs that menstruating women are unclean. There is also a lack of facilities within schools.
However, progress is occurring within Ghana through charities such as Dressability and Action Through Enterprise, which worked to give girls hygienic, reusable pads in a small rural area in upper west Ghana in 2021. This was due to its belief that sanitary pads are a luxury item in a post-pandemic era, and many families they have worked with struggled to send their girls to school due to not being able to afford them.
In conclusion, one can say that despite currently alarming statistics regarding period poverty in Africa, several organizations are striving to combat this to the greatest extent they can. The work that the organizations mentioned above have undertaken is evidence of a growing movement to combat period poverty in Africa for menstruators in education and broader life. By providing workshops and inclusion for men and boys to reduce period stigma and practical resources to ensure no one ends up without access to products, these groups are creating a better future for the next generation of menstruators.
From pushing for policies that help improve menstrual hygiene, to educating women and girls about menstruation and their bodies, Coachability Foundation working toward better period management in Africa.
There's a lot we can all do to help combat period poverty and the stigma that contributes to it. From talking openly about periods, to supporting the organisations that are doing the work to ensure that girls can properly manage their periods, to taking action with us to empower girls now Start taking action with us by contributing.
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Foto de Lucxama Sylvain