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.
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.
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
- support charities and organizations working to end period poverty, such as Alliance For Period Supplies, GrassROOTS Community Foundation, The Pad Project and The Kwek Society (you can find many more where you live via a quick Google search)
- if possible, buy your own sanitary products from brands that support menstrual equity like, SheThinx and Always
- keep sharing and having conversations about periods to combat social stigma around menstruation
- champion local and/or national government policies that:
- eliminate sales tax on all menstrual hygiene products; they are a necessity, not a luxury
- provide free tampons, sanitary towels and general hygiene products in schools
- provide free menstrual and general hygiene products in all public bathrooms
- 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?
Period Real Talk: 4 BIPOC Led Organizations to Know – Project Untaboo