Period poverty is an epidemic that goes much deeper than lack of menstrual hygiene products. Educating young girls and boys about menstruation has proven to be an imperative part of breaking down stigmas and helping them accept each other and themselves.
The definition of period poverty includes lacking not just sanitary products and menstrual hygiene education, but also toilets, waste management and even hand washing facilities. The causes of this epidemic are many, including financial constraints, lack of resources, social stigmatization, and enforcement of outdated practices based on superstition. The continued spread of misinformation about the menstrual cycle directly results in the isolation and shame amongst women in these societies, according to Femme International.
The term “period poverty” has become more widespread in the past couple years as more coverage on the topic has occurred. This year, the film “Period. End of Sentence.” won an Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject). The focus is on the community of the village Hapur, and the women who promote menstruation education to break down stereotypes and try to create easy access to menstrual hygiene products. The film showcases the disparity in understanding of menstruation between the men and women of Hapur. In the beginning of the short film, a group of men are asked if they know what menstruation is, and they respond, uncomfortable and laughing nervously, that they believe it’s an illness that mainly affects women.
Period poverty is harmful to girls physically, emotionally and psychologically. There are 2.3 million people in the world living without proper sanitation facilities. That includes what should be necessities, like handwashing facilities and toilets. This poses a serious threat to women on their period because poor physical hygiene often results in poor menstrual hygiene. If girls are not properly managing their period, it can cause reproductive and urinary tract infections, which is the leading cause of death for women globally.
There are also psychological consequences to the lack of menstruation education. According to a study conducted by Femme International in 2014, “in Nairobi’s Mathare Valley slum, over 75% of girls had little idea what menstruation was before they got their first period – causing them to feel scared, confused and embarrassed.”
All of this also affects how young girls and women impact the world. According to Global Citizen, girls who are uneducated are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, child marriages, early pregnancy, and complications from pregnancy. These obstacles can be detrimental to a young girls’ life and difficult to escape or manage, especially in a developing country. UNICEF and other organizations are fighting to promote menstruation education globally to prevent period poverty from growing.
Period Poverty Charities You Can Support
These are only a few of the many organizations fighting against period poverty. Click the links below to learn more about them.