DEFINING PERIOD POVERTY
Period poverty is defined as an inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education. But not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management.
“It is a worldwide issue, affecting millions of women and girls who are hampered or even threatened by their inability to afford basic menstruation care”
The Royal College of nursing defines Period Poverty as:
“The lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints”
Also, Global Citizen explains that period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities, or unawareness of waste management.
NIGERIA, JUST ANOTHER COUNTRY PLAGUED BY PERIOD POVERTY
The problem is worldwide including in Nigeria. The people who are already living from hand to mouth, cannot afford to purchase the expensive sanitary products, and consequently; women enforced to use unclean and used clothing for this purpose over and over again. It is estimated that more than 500 million women and young girls experience period poverty every month around the world. According to a survey conducted in 2020, about half of the women around the world faced period poverty. This is because of financial constraints prevalent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Nigerian woman mentioned to us while interviewing her:
“I remember my mum tearing an old piece of clothing. Which includes washing, drying, ironing, and then presenting it to me to use as a substitute for a sanitary towel that she could not afford to get for me at the time. I never knew this whole thing was Period Poverty until some years later. Although I can afford menstrual products now. Still not the best of them because the cost has risen from N250 ($0.61) to about N450 ($1.09). And this is happening with more than 83 million Nigerians living below the poverty line”
Anyone can face period poverty. You won’t be able to know whether or not someone can afford period products unless they tell you. Unfortunately, there are still various stigmas attached to periods. So, individuals are hesitant to openly discuss period poverty.
MYTHS AND TABOOS ABOUT PERIODS
Because of poor understanding of periods, myths and taboos concerning them have persisted for thousands of years. Denying their rights, and limiting their influence and authority in society.
Many myths about periods revolve around the assumption that women are filthy or produce a poisonous material when they menstruate. This is comparable to other superstitions around the world. These includes such as pregnant women being unable to make jam, bake bread, preserve meat, or prepare food because it will not work/would poison them. This may appear absurd, but superstitions of this nature are still present in many countries, faiths, and cultures.
MENSTRUAL HYGIENE IS A NECESSITY NOT A LUXURY
Ekemini Inyang, initiator of Pad a Girl Child Campaign in Nigeria says that:
“Today pads are for rich people because currently, they are expensive”
She visited about 25 States in Nigeria as other states were not safe enough to have them preach the gospel of period hygiene. Ekemini highlights that during her visit and while spreading menstrual hygiene awareness, she noticed that in some communities there were girls who got to see sanitary pads for the first time. She further mentioned that during this whole visit she has no clue and still trying to get a grasp of why they are free condoms but hardly free pads in Nigeria. She also discovered cultures that treat women in unimaginable ways during their period.
Another woman who preferred to be anonymous, shared a story with us telling about the shame culture existing around menstruation.
Listen to her below!
REASONS FOR PERIOD POVERTY
After doing a lot of research, we’re finally able to list down few reasons which are playing crucial role in the prevalence of period poverty across the globe.
Period poverty is due to lack of money. Period products quickly go to the bottom of the priority list if you only have enough money to choose between food and heating. Menstruating parents may prioritize their children’s requirements, resulting in a lack of adequate period products for themselves.
LACK OF LEGISLATION SUPPORT
In 2020, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all, and also in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the government will provide all the schools of New Zealand with free sanitary products. However, in Nigeria, the conversations are still going on about legislations to be passed on period poverty. But nothing concrete yet.
Due to a lack of cash and the need to prioritize food and shelter, homeless people are considerably less likely to have access to period products. Furthermore, homeless people are far less likely to have access to clean and safe laundry facilities.
NEGLIGENCE AND ABUSE
If a young person’s caregivers have enough money to buy period products but choose not to prioritize them due to neglect or abuse, the young person may experience a period of poverty.
Another cause of period poverty is the inability to obtain a sufficient supply at a reasonable price. During Covid-19, for example, people stockpiling supplies pushed up costs, making it impossible for those who normally rely on obtaining products from Amazon to do so.
EFFECTS OF PERIOD POVERTY
Many girls in underprivileged communities are forced to utilize filthy self-made materials, due to a lack of menstrual supplies. These includes dirty rags, ashes, and bed linings, which are ineffective and might cause illness. These hardships are now more then ever in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The outcome is profoundly detrimental effects on the lives of people who menstruate at all times. Including effects on school attendance, freedoms and choices, job and communal life, safety, and extreme lack of access to supplies.
School Attendance – According to the World Bank, girls miss 10-20% of school days each year owing to a lack of menstrual supplies, inadequate sanitation, toilets, period pain, or social stigma.
Shame and Stress – Women and girls experience prolonged shame and dread during periods as a result of social stigma or period taboo. These atrocities are present in societies where gender inequality, discrimination, patriarchal standards about women’s and girls’ position are prevalent.
Health and Safety – Due to a lack of resources, many girls in impoverished communities are forced to utilize unsanitary materials which can lead to infections of the urinary system and other organs.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO ADDRESS PERIOD POVERTY?
Period poverty is difficult to address since it is both an economic and a cultural issue perpetuated by long-held cultural beliefs and rituals. Ending period poverty necessitates not only greater menstrual education, but also the government, health, and public-sector support.
Let’s take a look at how the following areas can support the prevention of period poverty.
- BY EDUCATION AND OPENLY ADDRESSING ISSUES
- BY STARTING EDUCATIONAL CAMPAIGNS WITH THE HELP OF NGO’S
- ACTION OF GOVERNMENTS AND PUBLIC BODIES
- BY MENSTRUAL ACTIVISM AND THE MEDIA
HOW YOU CAN PLAY YOUR PART?
- Choose menstrual products from companies that are on aim to eradicate period poverty.
- Donate to a charity on a global or local scale.
- Participate in marches and events.
- Please sign petitions.
- Donate vintage items
- Learn about the issues and listen to other people’s perspectives and experiences.
We believe that by working together, we can make a difference in ending period poverty.