A woman sits on a couch with a hot water bottle healing period stomach pain. Photo by grinvalds via Canva.
Advocacy & News, Awareness & Unlearning

Why Eliminating Period Poverty Is Important

Inequality of access to menstrual hygiene products remains a global issue that impacts hundreds of millions of people; the U.S. alone accounts for approximately 17 million of those experiencing period poverty. The cost of items like sanitary towels or tampons can often prevent people from managing their menstrual health.

Reliable access to essential menstrual products and support, including contraception, hygiene facilities and waste management can adversely burden the mental and physical health of those experiencing period poverty. For people who menstruate, including trans men and non-binary individuals; being able to maintain menstrual hygiene is a fundamental, autonomous right that should be rooted in dignity. Financial insecurity, homelessness, social stigma, gender identity or a lack of education does not diminish someone’s inherent value. Healthcare should be equitable — for everyone.

Foreground Text: Why Eliminating Period Poverty Is Important. Background Image: A woman sits on a couch with a hot water bottle healing period stomach  pain. Photo by grinvalds via Canva.

The physical and emotional challenges that period poverty creates can negatively impact the quality of life for those experiencing it. Participating in typically ordinary activities like going to school or work, for example, becomes impossible if menstrual products are inaccessible; two-thirds of American teens regularly withdraw from education on the days they can’t get hold of the menstrual products they need. Not to mention the fact that many working people turn to using old rags, socks, paper towels, newspaper and cardboard just to go about their daily lives.

Nobody should be excluded from living a full, varied and successful life because of inaccessible menstrual equity. It’s a public health crisis that impacts many of the most developing nations in the world and stretches universally to some of the richest; including the USA, Canada and Britain. This issue requires urgent action; it can be eradicated.

Many initiatives can become the norm, like the recent ordinance in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the first of it’s kind in any U.S. city, that provides free menstrual products; including toilet paper, soap, paper towels and water in all public bathrooms. Or Scotland that allows anyone who needs sanitary towels or tampons to have free access to them via community centres, youth clubs and pharmacies. Or policies like that of Kenya, the first country to eliminate tampon tax and then provide free period products in public schools.

A person experiencing menstrual cramps lies back on a mattress with one arm over their stomach and the other over their eyes. Photo by Jonathan Borba via Unsplash.
photo via Jonathan Borba

No matter where you’re reading this from, there are likely a number of communities in your local area that need support eliminating period poverty. Here are some ways you can take action:

  • donate menstrual and general hygiene supplies to food banks, homeless shelters and community centres/programs
  • if possible, buy your own sanitary products from brands that support menstrual equity like, SheThinx and Always
  • champion local and/or national government policies that:
    1. eliminate sales tax on all menstrual hygiene products; they are a necessity, not a luxury
    2. provide free tampons, sanitary towels and general hygiene products in schools
    3. provide free menstrual and general hygiene products in all public bathrooms
    4. support bold and robust solutions to cut nationwide poverty
  • keep track of proposed menstrual equality policies and highlight/share/ask your representatives to support them — for all U.S. initiatives, click here — make sure they are trans and non-binary inclusive

We must dismantle all barriers that impede any fundamental hygiene needs from being met. By upholding the right to stay clean, comfortable and fully present in all aspects of life, we’re making sure dignity is prioritised for those encountering period poverty.

What menstrual health and hygiene services are available where you live? What three things that tackle period poverty in your community can you do right now?


Further Info:

Including the Men in Menstruation: Trans Periods & Branding – Vulvani

Period Real Talk: 4 BIPOC Led Organizations to Know – Project Untaboo

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58 thoughts on “Why Eliminating Period Poverty Is Important”

  1. YES! I love this post, and you’ve outlined some great ways to help with getting the change started. This was very informative and definitely an issue we need to keep speaking out about so it’s heard! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Gosh, it’s so awful to think people suffer through things like this. It’s so simple for us to nip to Tesco and buy a packet of tampons, it’s hard to imagine it’s not that way for others in the world. Thanks for sharing this.

    Corinne x

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  3. Such an informative post, it’s sad seeing people suffer from lack of access to menstrual products so this post sheds light on how to support girls around our locality. Thanks for sharing this, definitely worth the read 💕

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  4. this is such an informative post and so so important topic to share! Also, it’s very helpful that you shared so many ways to help out. There are some charities that work on period poverty near me and also love to keep up with the news and some accounts about the period to also end period stigma. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Wow, I didn’t realise so many people in the USA were affected by period poverty. Period products are a necessity and not a luxury as you said. It should be non-texed and available in schools and public restrooms. As a woman, I can imagine how uncomfortable and distressing it is to not have access to these basic necessities. I have never really thought about it so that’s for bringing the awareness.

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    1. I am so glad this was informative — it’s an issue that doesn’t get talked about enough; but the idea that anyone has to use rags or cardboard instead of sanitary towels or tampons, etc is so upsetting. Periods are bad enough without this indignity. Thanks so much for reading!

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  6. I didn’t know the term period poverty was a thing honestly but this is quite terrible. It’s quite discouraging to know that there people who don’t have access to period products as every female deserves to have good period products.

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    1. Exactly — it’s not a luxury, it’s a vital part of healthcare that allows people to live their daily lives with dignity. It is a great shame that period poverty exists anywhere — I hope action is taken and it becomes a thing of the past.

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  7. This is such an important topic, thank you for shedding some light. I recently worked with SheThinx and appreciate the fact that they give back to their community. It’s also wonderful to hear that Always is part of this as well. Thank you for sharing!

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  8. I love this so much. Education and Advocacy about Menstrual hygiene and health needs to happen more and more until it becomes a comfortable part of everyday conversation. So many individuals are negatively impacted because of unfair policies, and biased, outdated modes of thinking.

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  9. Prepandemic there was a lot of talk about tackling period poverty, but I think only the Scottish government decided to try and do something about it at the national level. If I remember rightly, a couple of football clubs decided to make period products free at there grounds too. But so much more needs to be done

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    1. Scotland definitely got on board so I hope that more and more places do the same. I like the idea of football clubs having free products, it shows that initiatives can be put in place to help. I agree that so much more needs to be done — hopefully more action will bring results. Thanks so much for reading.

      Like

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing about this! Such an important topic… Thank you for all the useful information and having such an inclusive perspective

    Like

  11. What an important post. When I travelled to Socotra, an island off the coast of Yemen, we were told to bring toys and clothes for the kids, food items for families. But a friend who had previously been suggested we bring sanitary products for the women because it’s difficult for them to get when the island closes off from the mainland (for around 5 months of the year). They were so happy to receive them.
    While I have moved away from single use products and now use period panties, I love that there are supporting brands out there.
    I also completely agree that these products should be freely available in schools and I can’t believe there’s still a tax on them!

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    1. It’s such an important issue that I am glad that there are people who are aware and doing what they can to help alleviate it. It really shouldn’t still be an issue that impacts so many but sadly, here we are! I’m hopeful that more and more places will implement free products for all, it’s a great solution!

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  12. Such an important post! I think it’s crazy and super sad that some people with periods just don’t have access to period products… My school has a pantry where all students can get groceries as well as sanitary products for free & I think that’s AWESOME. It really helps a lot of people.

    Love,
    Krissi of the marquise diamond
    https://www.themarquisediamond.de/

    Like

  13. Yes yes yes! It bothers me that some people aren’t aware of this topic but I guess if you’re in a position of privilege then it’s not something you ever have to think about. I donate monthly to Bloody Good Period – they’re a wonderful charity.

    Like

  14. This is such an important topic and one that really doesn’t get the attention it so deserves. Our schools in British Columbia now have a free feminine hygiene program but we still have a long way to address this issue. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. I appreciate the spotlight you placed on this topic. It is one that is difficult for most people. I know we focus a lot on food and clothing for people in lower economic statuses; however thinking about menstruation and the effects that has on health is just as important. The statistic about individuals not attending school would account for many missed days of school in a situation where inequality is already rampant. Sharing this post.

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    1. Exactly — the issues of inequality as made worse if people are having to miss school and/or work because of lack of access to menstrual products. I am glad to share this issue as I am hopeful people will become more aware and also take action to help. Thank you so much for reading!

      Like

  16. I was not aware of the term period poverty but I understand that it is a thing and this post is really important. When I was in highschool I remember there were some girls that were usually missing classes and I was shocked when one of them told me it was due to her period. Once I foynd out that Always as a brand supports the extinction of period poverty it is the only brand I use

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  17. Yes, yes yes! I love this post, periods can be so uncomfortable and make me feel so ill for nearly a week. I hate that they are so expensive but I know that equally, I am so lucky to be able to afford them. They should definitely be free, especially in public bathrooms. At the service station, I saw that one pad was £2 which is absurd!

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    1. I have a terrible time on my period too, and I have the privilege of being able to have access to all the things I need to make me more comfortable. I am glad to raise this issue as there should be no barriers to taking care of menstrual health for anyone. Thanks so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I really wish period products were free. It really is sad for those who can’t have access to these basic necessities, and it’s so true that we need more policies and programs that support this cause. But I’m glad to see that there are already a few cities who have started giving free access to these products. I wish it could be the same worldwide!

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    1. It is definitely encouraging to see that many cities in the U.S. and around the world are doing something about making menstrual products freely available. There is no reason why we can’t make them free everywhere; and for richer nations to help with supplying products to other nations that may need assistance. Hopefully we are working towards this! Thanks so much for reading!

      Like

  19. I’m fortunate enough to live in NYC, where most schools offer free pads and so does hospitals, police stations, and fire houses. However, the stigma around it is still large due to the lack of sexual education here. This was such an informative post!

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    1. NYC has definitely made headway in providing help; that is reassuring and shows that this is an issue that can be tackled. I agree with you 100% that stigma is still a huge problem so I hope more work is done to combat this wherever it rises. Thanks so much for reading!

      Like

    1. Scotland has definitely made some positive moves towards ending period poverty. There is still so much to do as this has to be a universal, countrywide (and worldwide) issue that is resolved. Thank you for reading and I hope you can support your community to step up and do more.

      Like

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