What’s The Problem?
“Period poverty is a lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities, waste management, or a combination of these. It affects an estimated 500 million people worldwide.” – MedicalNewsToday
Who Does It Affect?
Women all over the world, in both developed and developing economies, are negatively affected by period poverty. There are approximately 16.9 million women in the United States living in poverty, and the inability to afford menstrual products is a significant part of their struggle. A study by Reuters Health found that one in five women have trouble affording menstrual products every month. There are no government programs that provide the necessary monthly products to women during menstruation. Half of the women interviewed by Reuters Health said there were times when they could not afford to buy both food and menstrual products.
Women with low incomes are more likely to live in areas known as ‘food deserts’, without access to cost-saving bulk buying, which can help significantly when accessing menstrual products. They may be forced to buy sanitary towels and tampons in smaller quantities and at higher prices in small neighborhood shops and gas stations. Compounding this difficulty is that 28 out of 50 states charge a tax (known as a ‘pink tax’) on these necessary products.
What Happens When Women Can’t Access Menstrual Products?
Not having the products necessary to go to school and work without worry can cause shame and anxiety, leading women to stay home or to be distracted when they do attend, constantly worried about leaks and accidents. It can also cause women to ration and use products for longer than is safe, leading to health issues such as urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, or toxic shock syndrome. Some schools provide menstrual products free of charge through a school nurse or secretary. But girls still face the challenges of not only having to get to school in the first place, but also admitting to an adult that they are menstruating and cannot afford the necessities.
In addition to the financial expense of monthly products, there are environmental considerations. A study by the Life Cycle Initiative found that there are 19 billion single-use menstrual products used each year in the USA, often individually wrapped in plastic, with 80% of those products ending up in landfills and the plastic components taking up to 500 years to decompose. The manufacturing processes to produce these single-use products cause further negative impact on the environment.