What was your first period like? I remember the horror of getting mine at school when I was 11 years old. Although this is totally normal, at the time I felt betrayed by my body - barely anyone I knew had started their period.
It could have been so much worse, though. I had access to pads and managed to sort myself out without staining my clothes, needing to go home and missing my classes. In fact, throughout my life, I’ve always had what I needed to deal with my periods properly.
If only everyone who menstruates could say the same thing.
One Million People Can’t Afford Sanitary Products
This is period poverty and it is widespread.
Those who menstruate and live in third-world countries are some of the worst affected.
Millions of people are missing out on critical opportunities, like getting an education. While some are even trading sex for pads and tampons - two out of three pad users in rural Kenya receive their products from sexual partners.
Gabby Edlin also reveals how period poverty affects people in Bangladesh. In her book, It’s Only Blood, she explains how there are millions of menstruating textile workers who have to resort to putting a fistful of ‘joot’ down their pants - small leftover pieces of fabric that end up on the floor of the factories. Worse still, they usually have to wash their joots with dirty water and without soap putting their health at risk.
This is because pads are seen as a luxury product in Bangladesh. “Something the rich can treat themselves to, not a necessity for the one who menstruates,” says Edlin. The prices of pads are therefore above what a laborer can afford, forcing them to resort to the unthinkable.
Closer to Home
This isn’t just an issue in countries as far away as Kenya and Bangladesh. Last year in the UK 137,000 children missed school because they couldn’t access pads or tampons. For one individual, this actually led to homelessness.
Period poverty is a thing in America too. According to the US Census Bureau, 39.7 million people live below the poverty line in the U.S., yet menstrual products are not covered by food stamps.
Also, it’s been reported that almost 1 in 5 Americans have missed school due to a lack of period protection. How angry does this make us? Think Ross from Friends when a coworker eats his sandwich (but, times a million).
What Can We Do to Beat Period Poverty?
Normalize Period Talk
Half of the reason why we have period poverty is because of damaging views. Many see menstruation as ‘dirty’ or ‘shameful’. This makes it difficult for a lot of people to talk about their period and get support when they need it.
It’s time to ditch taboo and get talking. You’ll encourage others to feel less embarrassed by period talk normalizing what’s natural. This also separates fact from fiction helping people foster healthier, more loving relationships with their bodies - a necessary ingredient for happiness.
Use the #PeriodPoverty and #PeriodPositivity Hashtag
If there’s anything the movements #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter taught us, it’s that social media can impact lives in powerful ways.
By using the hashtags #periodpoverty and #periodpositivity, you can give voice to the right messages surrounding menstruation and keep those conversations alive. This helps to build awareness around issues like period poverty, educating the online world and enticing others to help.
Support Charities and Organizations (If You Can!)
A few clicks on Google will help you find period poverty charities in your area. Some badass international organizations are:
Whether you decide to donate money or share a campaign on social media, your help will go a long way.
We’ve teamed up with some ace organizations to help solve period-related problems around the world. By investing in our products, Lunette customers are helping to extend our support.
Local food banks and homeless shelters are also great places to reach out to and give donations directly. After all, those in need are often closer to home than we think.
Period poverty isn’t going to go away in a week, a month or even a year - but the situation CAN improve. However, this is only possible if we keep on caring and raising awareness.
If this is something that lights a fire in you, stay in the loop. Keep reading about period poverty, broaden your understanding and regularly check in with your favorite charities.
By continuing to learn, you are empowered to do more. And with fresh eyes you’ll be able to stamp out period stigma in creative and brilliant ways.
Something You Can Do Now!
Do you agree this is an issue worth shouting about? Then share this article. Or any other post you happen to come across on period poverty.
Spreading the word is something you can do at the click of a button (and from your bed, woohoo!). Simply use the share buttons below to get the message out there on Twitter or Facebook.