Period Poverty Is Real

By Eva Pearce

No, period poverty isn’t made up. And yes, the stigma surrounding it needs to change. 

Did you know that around the world, only 12 percent of girls with periods have access to the products they need? Forty million women and girls are affected by period poverty. Let that sink in. Worldwide, young girls and women are forced to choose between survival, education, and their hygiene needs. They shouldn’t have to do that.

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The stigma surrounding periods has been shown to directly affect a girls potential to succeed. If a girl misses school every time she has her period, she is set 145 days behind her male peers. Even then, most girls in developing countries choose to drop out of school altogether rather than face the shame and embarrassment of being unprepared for their period. This is not okay.

There are charities like Bloody Good Period and Free Periods trying hard to erase the stigma and misunderstanding behind periods and period poverty, but it is not enough.

To end period poverty, people must first accept that it actually exists. That it wasn’t just something made up by crazy feminists. This is a real issue, and no problem has ever been solved in denial. Periods aren’t gross, and neither are the people that casually bring them up in conversation.

Society’s inability to talk openly and honestly about female issues not only ensures that periods remain a taboo but also allows the patriarchy to prevent women from taking control of their own bodies. Menstruation is still often perceived as shameful, so much so that 48 per cent of girls aged 14-21 feel embarrassed by their periods, while 71 per cent has felt embarrassed buying sanitary products. The stigma underpins the real reason period poverty is so hard to talk about it – because most people feel like they can’t, or shouldn’t. But we can, and we need to.

Because studies have shown that giving girls access to period products helps them stay in school. In terms of economics, when women suffer the community suffers, as every additional year of education can increase a woman’s earnings up to 25 percent over the course of her lifetime. It seems so silly, doesn’t it? When I get my period, it doesn’t really bother me. Sure, I get pretty bad cramps. And sure, I have oilier skin than usual. But this is nothing compared to the 65% of women in Kenya who don’t have enough money to buy menstrual products. Or in India, where more than eight in ten girls don’t have access to menstrual products.

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People affected by period poverty aren’t any less human than those unaware of it.

Girls afraid of going to school because of their periods aren’t less a woman as girls fighting in protests right now.

No matter the economic status, they are human. They aren’t any different to any other woman on their period. One girl living in Kenya without access to sanitary products is no different to a girl living in London whose prepared for her period a week before it comes. The more we talk about period poverty, the sooner it disappears. And with that, the doubts in a girls head that she can’t do everything a man does because of her period.  

Put simply, to erase the stigma around periods is to erase the fear in a girls mind that she can’t do something, just because she’s on her period, or just because she’s a girl. Genders shouldn’t be a setback, they should be a motivator. And the more we talk about the inequality surrounding us, like period stigma, or the wage gap, or workplace discrimination, the sooner equal opportunities appear for all.