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Menstrual Health Awareness Month

In today’s world, where the availability of fundamental needs is frequently assumed, a silent yet pervasive issue persists: period poverty. It’s a battle fought in the shadows, where access to something as basic as menstrual hygiene products can determine a person’s dignity, health, and opportunities. While it may seem like a simple matter, the ramifications of period poverty are profound and far-reaching…

What is “Period Poverty”?

Period poverty is a pressing issue that affects individuals worldwide, particularly those in low-income communities. It refers to the inability of individuals to afford or access essential menstrual hygiene products, sanitation facilities, and education about menstruation.

At its core, period poverty is a matter of equity and dignity. For many individuals, the monthly arrival of menstruation brings not only physical discomfort but also the anxiety of not having the means to manage it adequately.

Inadequate access to menstrual products can lead to the use of unsanitary alternatives, such as rags or tissue, which can increase the risk of infections and other health complications. Furthermore, the lack of access to proper sanitation facilities exacerbates the challenges faced by those menstruating, particularly in public spaces and schools.

The impact of period poverty extends beyond immediate health concerns to encompass broader social and economic inequalities. In many communities, menstruation is still shrouded in stigma and taboo, leading to feelings of shame and embarrassment among those experiencing it. This stigma can prevent individuals from seeking help or support, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty and marginalisation.

The Impact of Period Poverty

Period poverty significantly impacts numerous individuals globally, especially women and girls, including those in the UK. The lack of access to affordable menstrual products and adequate sanitation not only compromises physical health but also hinders education, economic involvement, and overall welfare.

• It was estimated that more than 137,700 girls in the UK missed school in 2018 because they didn’t have access to sanitary products.

• Research by Plan International UK indicates that 1-in-10 girls (aged 14 to 21) are facing period poverty in the UK.

According to a WaterAid survey, the cost-of-living crisis has had a devastating impact on people who menstruate in the UK. To commemorate Menstrual Hygiene Day, the global charity surveyed 2,000 British people who menstruate (aged 14 to 50). The survey revealed alarming methods that people are resorting to in order to cut expenses, such as:

• Nearly a quarter (24%) of women and girls in the UK indicated difficulty affording period products within the past year.

• Almost a third (32%) expressed concerns about their ability to afford these products in the future.

• 20% of the girls and women surveyed resorted to makeshift materials, such as toilet paper or sponges, to manage their periods.

• 26% wore period products for longer than recommended, risking their health.

• 15% missed school or work due to affordability issues.

Fighting Period Poverty

However, amidst these challenges, there are signs of progress. Activists, organisations (such as Period Power, and communities are coming together to tackle period poverty head-on.

Education emerges as a potent tool in this battle. By breaking the silence surrounding menstruation and by providing thorough menstrual health education, we can empower individuals to take charge of their own health and well-being. From classrooms to community centres, initiatives are teaching both boys and girls about menstruation, challenging taboos, stigmas, and promoting gender equality.

Access to affordable menstrual products is another critical area of focus. From grassroots initiatives that distribute free pads to government policies that eliminate sales taxes on menstrual products, there is a growing recognition that menstrual hygiene is a basic human right, not a luxury.

B Hygienic actively contributes to combating period poverty through several initiatives. As a dedicated provider for the PickUpMyPeriod campaign, we support efforts to provide free period products to those in need. This campaign directs users to the nearest location offering free period products, utilising GPS location or entered postcodes for accuracy. Users can also filter product types and information is available on the location of the products within the building, allowing users to maintain discretion.

We’ve also organised a fundraising campaign that involves a hike up Snowdon in June. The proceeds will support Period Power, a charity that provides period products to organisations across the Midlands, ensuring access for anyone who menstruates. Our goal is to raise £1,000, which will enable Period Power to distribute over 7,000 sanitary pads to those in need.

To mitigate the impact of period poverty on education, we are providing free vending machines for sanitary products in schools. These vending machines ensure that students have convenient access to essential menstrual products, thereby removing barriers to learning that are caused by period poverty. This initiative not only addresses immediate needs but also promotes a supportive and inclusive learning environment where all students can thrive.

The fight against period poverty is far from over, but with each small victory, we come closer to a future where menstruation is no longer a barrier to education, health, or dignity. It’s a future where all individuals, regardless of gender or socioeconomic status, have the opportunity to thrive. So, let’s roll up our sleeves, break down the barriers, and build a world where periods are no longer a source of shame, but a symbol of strength and resilience.