Period Poverty has been a life altering global issue for much longer than the current life altering global issue of Covid-19. While the latter has had a much farther reaching impact and has managed to literally stop the world functioning, among its impacts has been further strain on the state of period poverty globally.
"An estimated 1.8 billion girls, women, and gender non-binary persons menstruate, yet millions of menstruators across the world cannot manage their monthly cycle in a dignified, healthy way. Even in the best of times, gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services often cause menstrual health and hygiene needs to go unmet. In emergencies, these deprivations can be exacerbated. The result is far-reaching negative impacts on the lives of those who menstruate: restricting mobility, freedom and choices; reducing participation in school, work and community life; compromising safety; and causing stress and anxiety." (Brooke Yamakoshi, UNICEF) *
With the approach of Menstrual Hygiene Day, it reminds us to support and lend our voices to the reality that millions of women around the world do not have access to basic female hygiene products, and this year the state of this issue is, if possible, even more heartbreaking.
The toilet paper ‘incident’ was enough for us to see how quickly access to basic supplies, even for the most affluent, can diminish. So, let’s consider those that ordinarily experience limited access to basic needs like pads and tampons, and just how horrible that reality is.
Organisations like Share The Dignity support the cause by providing free, donated sanitary products in schools and community centres, but with the national (and global) lockdown of schools, those who relied on these products have found themselves suddenly with little to no access to supplies. A drastic decline in accessing these dispensers and products has been observed since the Covid-19 lockdown. Without adequate reproductive and hygiene education on top of supplies, girls are looking toward alternatives more than ever; rags, toilet paper or simply nothing at all.
A case from the UK found a previously homeless 20 year old unable to access products with school and youth centres closed, and unable to afford or source her own, found herself using nothing over a duration of 3 periods. A study confirmed that 1 in 10 women in the UK are struggling to access sanitary products or towels and 54% are resorting toilet paper. And we know how easy that commodity has been to access?!
In India, the conditions are extreme. In a nation that already stigmatises menstruation women have been forced to refrain from including sanitary napkins in the household grocery lists as only men were collecting the supplies. Resulting in women restoring to cloth pads or alternatives and increases risks of reproductive tract infections and further illness if not treated in time.
An already upsetting issue is reaching catastrophic with what feels like an inadequate amount of attention. We encourage everyone to support the Menstrual Hygiene Day organisation, a global advocacy platform that brings together the voices and actions of various individuals and organisations to break silence, raise awareness and advocate to parliaments around the world.
Where possible, we also urge those to support communities in need or charities who have the facility to do so. We’re currently matching all products sold until the end of May and will donate those to youth centres, schools and charities to help where we can!
*Source: Unicef Brief: Mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on menstrual health and hygiene