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Period poverty in Africa

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual products, proper sanitation facilities, and information about menstrual health and hygiene. It is a global issue that affects millions of girls and women, particularly in low-income countries and marginalized communities.

In many parts of the world, menstruation is still considered a taboo topic, and girls and women are often shamed, ostracized, and discriminated against during their periods. This, combined with the lack of access to affordable and quality menstrual products, makes it challenging for many girls and women to manage their periods with dignity and safety.


Period poverty can have severe consequences for the physical, emotional, and social well-being of girls and women. It can lead to infections, reproductive health problems, and school absenteeism, which can ultimately affect their education, employment, and overall quality of life.



Period poverty is a significant issue in Africa, affecting millions of girls and women across the continent. In many parts of Africa, menstruation is still considered a taboo topic, and girls and women face significant challenges in managing their periods safely, hygienically, and with dignity.

One of the biggest challenges of period poverty in Africa is the lack of access to affordable and quality menstrual products. Many girls and women cannot afford to buy sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups, and they resort to using unsanitary materials such as rags, newspapers, or leaves, which can lead to infections and other health problems.


In addition to the lack of access to menstrual products, there is also a shortage of proper sanitation facilities in many parts of Africa, particularly in rural areas. This means that girls and women do not have access to clean and private toilets, which makes managing their periods challenging and unsafe.

The consequences of period poverty in Africa can be severe. Girls may miss school during their periods, which can lead to poor academic performance and early school dropout. Women may miss work or other important activities, which can affect their economic opportunities and social well-being.

Various organizations and initiatives are working to address period poverty in Africa. They are providing access to menstrual products, educating girls and women about menstrual health and hygiene, and advocating for policy changes that promote menstrual equity and dignity. Some of the organizations include Femme International, Afripads, and The Pad Project, among others.


Period poverty is a significant issue in South Africa, with millions of girls and women affected by the lack of access to affordable and quality menstrual products, as well as proper sanitation facilities. Here are some facts and figures about period poverty in South Africa:

  1. According to a study conducted by UNICEF in 2017, one in three girls in South Africa misses school during their periods.

  2. In some parts of South Africa, girls miss up to 50 days of school per year because of their periods.

  3. In a survey conducted by the non-profit organization, Imbumba Foundation, over 30% of girls in South Africa reported that they cannot afford sanitary pads.

  4. According to a study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2020, more than half of girls in South Africa do not have access to adequate menstrual hygiene management facilities at school.

  5. The cost of sanitary pads in South Africa is relatively high, with a pack of pads costing between ZAR 25 and ZAR 50, which is unaffordable for many girls and women living in poverty.

  6. In rural areas, many girls and women use old cloths, newspapers, or even sand and leaves to manage their periods, which can lead to infections and other health problems.

  7. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated period poverty in South Africa, with many families struggling to afford menstrual products due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

Period poverty is a significant issue in Kenya as well. Here are some facts and figures about period poverty in Kenya:

  1. According to a study conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in 2018, one in every ten girls in Kenya misses school during their periods.

  2. The same study found that 65% of girls in rural areas in Kenya cannot afford sanitary pads.

  3. In a survey conducted by the non-profit organization, ZanaAfrica Foundation, over 65% of girls in Kenya reported that they use old cloths or other unhygienic materials to manage their periods.

  4. According to a report by UNICEF, Kenya has a 65% value-added tax (VAT) on sanitary pads, making them unaffordable for many girls and women living in poverty.

  5. In some parts of Kenya, cultural taboos and myths surrounding menstruation lead to girls and women being ostracized and discriminated against during their periods.

  6. Lack of access to proper sanitation facilities in schools and other public places is also a major challenge, with many girls and women having to use unsanitary toilets or no toilets at all during their periods.

  7. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated period poverty in Kenya, with many families struggling to afford menstrual products due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

These figures show the urgent need to address period poverty in South Africa by providing access to menstrual products, educating girls and women about menstrual health, and advocating for policy changes that promote menstrual equity and dignity.


Period poverty is a significant issue in Africa, with millions of girls and women affected by the lack of access to affordable and quality menstrual products, as well as proper sanitation facilities. The consequences of period poverty are far-reaching, including missed school days, reduced work productivity, and health problems.

The root causes of period poverty in Africa are complex and multifaceted, including cultural and religious beliefs, lack of education and information about menstrual health, and socio-economic factors such as poverty and inequality. To address period poverty in Africa, we need a comprehensive approach that includes providing access to menstrual products, education and awareness-raising about menstrual health, and advocacy for policy changes that promote menstrual equity and dignity.

Efforts to address period poverty in Africa must also take into account the intersectional nature of the issue, including how it affects girls and women with disabilities, those living in rural areas, and those from marginalized communities.

Addressing period poverty in Africa is not just a matter of social justice and human rights, but it is also essential for achieving gender equality and the sustainable development goals. By investing in menstrual health and hygiene, we can empower girls and women to reach their full potential, reduce gender inequality, and build healthier, more resilient communities.


Coachability Foundation with its program Bloody Toll is working to address period poverty by providing access to menstrual products, educating girls and women about menstrual health, and advocating for policy changes that promote menstrual equity and dignity.

Support us.

https://www.coachabilityfoundation.org/bloody-toll




Curator Munllonch

Pic of Muhammadtaha Ibrahim

Souce :

UNICEF 2017



UNICEF 2018

UNWOMEN Period Poverty

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2020




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