Taking Care of Period Poverty: A Path to Achieving Equality

As May 28th, World Menstrual Hygiene Day, draws near, it is imperative to address the persistent worldwide concerns of poverty and menstruation. Although the menstrual cycle is a normal biological function, the financial strain it causes may make problems worse, especially for those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. We refer to this confluence of economic stigma and gender as “period poverty.”

In the midst of discussions about making the world “period-friendly,” this is perhaps one such problem that needs to be addressed right now.

Recognizing the obstacles associated with period poverty
Period poverty, as defined by UNFPA, is the term used to describe the increased economic vulnerability that women and girls experience as a result of the cost of menstruation supplies. These include associated expenses like painkillers and undergarments, in addition to menstruation pads and tampons.

“During menstruation, an individual needs basic sanitation facilities and resources, which include the use of sanitary pads, a washing area, medicines, and all other means to manage periods,” explains Rithish Kumar, co-founder of Pee Safe.

UNICEF statistics, however, indicate that 1.9 billion people lack access to even the most basic handwashing facilities, and around 2.8 billion people lack access to clean sanitation services.

Even though the selection of menstruation products is expanding and includes eco-friendly alternatives, including reusable and biodegradable pads, sanitary pads, menstrual cups, and tampons, many people still cannot afford them.

Surprisingly, even among the poorest homes in India, only around half of menstruating women use sanitary products. Due to budgetary restrictions, they are forced to use cloth and other improvised techniques instead. The brutal reality of period poverty, which affects at least 500 million individuals globally each month, is shown by this gap. There is an urgent need for action since 12% of the 355 million menstruation persons in India alone cannot afford necessary period supplies, says Kumar.

Furthermore, ignorance about managing menstrual hygiene contributes to period poverty. Kumar says, “When people don’t know how to manage their menstruation, they usually just grab whatever is handy or stick to customs without thinking about the risks involved.” This exacerbates the issue by initiating a cycle that is fueled by the pervasive shame associated with menstruation.

For instance, because of traditional beliefs about impurity, women are sequestered in huts during their menstruation in places like Nepal and certain areas of India. The situation is further exacerbated by limited access to WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) facilities, such as hygienic restrooms.

Dependency on these inadequate resources raises the risk of reproductive diseases, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and other infections, in addition to impeding the maintenance of menstrual hygiene if prompt assistance is not given.

What other effects does period poverty have on a person besides health?

Furthermore, the effects of period poverty gradually spread beyond health and hygiene to other facets of life.

Menstruators from disadvantaged groups often lack understanding, which leaves them with inaccurate perceptions of their own bodies and more obstacles to overcome, especially in the areas of sexual wellness and reproductive healthcare. According to UNICEF’s data, over 71% of the people in our nation do not have a thorough understanding of menstruation during their first cycle.

According to Kumar, “Many people who menstruate are compelled to live alone when they are menstruating. If a woman has pain or is in the early stages of a disease, she may be reluctant to talk about her issues because of the potential for emotional trauma and loneliness brought on by this isolation.

A dearth of restrooms and laundry facilities leads many girls to choose early school termination. According to a survey, a deficiency of appropriate menstrual hygiene management facilities, such as sanitary pads and menstruation education, causes 23 million girls to drop out of school each year.

We are tackling these interrelated problems head-on by addressing period poverty, which has the potential to destigmatize a number of societal ills. In order to put effective measures into place, it is essential to identify the underlying reasons of period poverty.

How to get out: Methods for making changes

Several Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 3 (excellent health and well-being), Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation), and Goal 10 (reduced disparities), are closely aligned with addressing period poverty. This highlights the significance of global government and community initiatives aimed at eradicating period poverty and advancing menstrual health and dignity for everyone.

In order to eradicate period poverty, governments, communities, and support organizations must work together. Among the last, there may be a fantastic collaboration driven by companies and non-governmental groups that promote menstrual hygiene.

The government is still striving to eradicate period poverty by enacting laws and formulating wise policies.

In order to supplement programs like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which has considerably boosted awareness about cleanliness and menstrual hygiene management countrywide, state-level efforts for pad distribution and awareness campaigns have been put into place. With more than 11 crore toilets constructed nationwide, these initiatives are essential to combating period poverty.

Communities must act as change agents, however. Raising awareness highlights the value of community engagement and encourages a better acceptance of period care options.

Menstruators need to be taught about menstruation hygiene and sexual wellbeing, particularly teenagers. Initiatives guided by experts may provide people with the correct knowledge they need to successfully battle taboos and disinformation.

Companies and brands may make a significant difference in period poverty by increasing product availability and spreading awareness. For example, Pee Safe’s HaqSePERIOD campaign attempts to enhance menstruation hygiene in India. Their goal is to educate and raise awareness among women on the significance of menstrual hygiene.

Taking baby steps toward a world that is period-friendly

Providing correct information and increasing awareness are the two main strategies needed to eradicate period poverty in India. Progress would remain elusive without the engagement of powerful forces dedicated to enacting urgently needed changes. Vulnerable groups have the ability to protect their health and dignity, which is a basic human right, when they are informed about workable options. In order to safeguard the health of menstruators as well as the environment, there also has to be a concentrated effort to encourage sustainable menstruation practices.

The first steps toward eradicating period poverty are modest but important. We have already started this path by having an honest conversation about the problem. Menstruation must be accepted as a normal part of life for everyone, empowering people rather than making them targets of prejudice. In India, achieving period poverty targets would be a major step toward class and gender equality.

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