Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities, and waste management.
On average, a person's period starts at the age of twelve. With many girls unable to access sanitary products, their academic performance, and school attendance in general, suffer.
In the UK, according to a representative survey of 1,000 girls and young women aged 14-21 by Plan International UK, 1 in 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products, while 1 in 7 have struggled to afford them. This research also found that 49% of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period and over the course of a year, 137,700 children in the UK miss school because of period poverty.
After lots of campaigning by various individuals and organisations, the government is now funding free period products for both primary and secondary schools. The caveat to this, however, is that schools must opt into the scheme in order to benefit from it.
Of course, there is much more to be done; especially for girls that aren’t in schools, in schools that haven’t opted into the scheme, and for those in higher education. (Hey Girl)
The latter issue is where we hope to make a difference. Whilst it is encouraging that the government is starting to provide better funding for sanitary products at lower levels of education, this help is dropped once a girl starts at University. Bodyform’s recent research found that 56% of 18 to 24-year-olds have had to go without hygiene essentials or cut down on them due to a lack of funds. For those who have to go without, it can have a damaging impact on some of the most important educational years of their lives.
Period poverty is not the first thing we consider when thinking of those who find themselves without a permanent address, but we take for granted access to our own hygiene sanctuary. For those living on the streets have limited places from which to access sanitary products and comfortable places to clean properly.
A group of students at The University of Manchester have a programme wherein once a month volunteers organise boxes of sanitary products and distribute them across Manchester city centre, to those unfortunately living without a home. We encourage other organisations much like this one, as it is such an effective way of directly helping those in need.
There are many charities working on this nationally as well as the relentless work done by food banks and shelters, but there is only so much that they can do.
Sanitary products are expensive and will often be found towards the end of a shopping list. There should never have to be a choice between having a meal on the table or the correct hygiene products for that ‘time of the month’. Both are a necessity.
Many who struggle to afford sanitary products resort to using products for longer than is safe, or by using makeshift alternatives such as toilet paper or even newspapers. This is detrimental in so many ways, from a greater risk of infection to the mental health impact of not being able to control their bleeding.
When donating to people in need people will clear out their kitchen cupboards before thinking of donating a box of tampons. We aim to change this and broaden people's awareness of ALL toiletries required.
Plan International UK identified the cost of sanitary products as part of the ‘toxic trio’ of period poverty causes. Sanitary products are currently subject to a 5% VAT, though this will be removed at the end of 2020. Regardless of this development, feminine hygiene products are unaffordable for many and this needs to change.
Period poverty is a crisis that reaches every society in the world for one reason or another. Period poverty results in a magnitude of various damaging consequences.
In places such as Africa and India, people often go without sanitary products. They must resort to using other unclean materials, or simply go without. The health impacts of this can be catastrophic and charities such as Action Aid are working around the clock to help empower and protect those who need it, from their monthly cycle.
The humanitarian response work that Action Aid has distributed globally is changing lives and communities. This ongoing work requires the help of people like you and me to donate, raise awareness of, and encourage change.