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The Global Nature of Period Poverty

One of the most common misconceptions is that period poverty only exists in certain areas of the world or just because you don’t witness firsthand what you think period poverty looks like “it doesn’t happen here.” Unfortunately, period poverty--defined as “inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and educations, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management” (American Medical Women’s Association)--is not limited to any one corner of the globe and can encompass a variety of obstacles menstruators may face in trying to care for their health during menstruation. That is why this month’s Lady Box theme of Period Equity is so important. 

To give just a small bit of insight into how wide the reach of period poverty is, here are ten shocking statistics about the scale of period poverty around the globe:

- 25 million women in the US live in poverty and yet aren’t able to use food stamps to access menstrual care products. 

-A survey by the brand Always found that in the United States, 1 in 5 girls miss school because they don’t have access to period products 

-In India only 12% of women have access to menstrual care products 

-1.25 billion women and girls have no access to a safe and private toilet 

-526 million don’t have a toilet at all 

-In the UK 49% of girls surveyed by Plan International reported that they have missed at least one full day of school because of their period 

-In Scotland, Young Scot surveyed 2,000 participants and found that 1 in 4 of those participants report struggling to access menstrual care products

Photo Credit: Water Aid/Srishti Bhardwaj

-In Kenya 65% of women and girls are unable to afford menstrual pads 

-In Kongo Central region of the DRC only 15% of women reported that they felt they have everything they need to manage menstruation (2017)

-Research commissioned by the Kulczyk Foundation found that, in Poland, 35% of the adolescent girls surveyed reported not having discussed menstruation until after their first period

When looking at this list it is important to note a few things. First of all, all of this research deals with a sample that is small when compared to the number of menstruators globally or in any one country. Also, much of the above research only surveyed women and/or girls, and we know for a fact that women and girls aren’t the only menstruators. Not to mention the fact that we’ve only recently begun researching menstruation and the effects of period poverty, meaning that the data that exists is only just beginning to measure this really complex issue. This means that while these statistics offer us a small window into the depth and severity of period poverty across the globe, the impact of period poverty is likely far greater than even what these numbers show.

Art by CraftCard.io

Period poverty affects menstruators everywhere and in a number of ways that is so vast it can’t even be encompassed in this one article. But just because this problem is vast, it doesn’t mean that we can’t still do something about it.

Follow along for the next 3 parts of our deep dive on Period Poverty to learn more about how period poverty can impact mental health, what affect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on period poverty, and best of all, what you can do to end period poverty. 

Sources: 

https://online.regiscollege.edu/blog/period-poverty/

https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/multimedia/2019/10/infographic-periods

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/period-poverty-mental-health-covid-19-solutions/

https://kulczykfoundation.org.pl/uploads/media/default/0001/05/465728000cda27b8f50a3acc18d77c7b4df8b482.pdf

Blog post by Briana Ryan

Image of a young college graduate wearing a red dress that goes above her knees with long sleeves. She has should length brunette hair and is smiling with the university in the background and a paved walkway lived by grass.

Briana is a Master’s of Human Rights student who fills her spare time with writing, reading, yoga, and family time (including, of course, lots of cuddles and playtime with her surprisingly spritely senior dog). In the past, Briana has put her skills to work volunteering with and working for Days for Girls International--an organization devoted to advancing menstrual equity. Although it has taken some time to unpack her own shame around menstruation, Briana now loves chatting about all things menstrual and reproductive health and jumps at any opportunity to get involved with organizations and businesses that empower menstruators.

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