Period Poverty and How To Help
Imagine a girl who walks to school with bunched up toilet paper in her undies because she doesn’t have a pad or tampon. Imagine the same girl who waits in the toilet for hours during class time and after school until all her friends have gone home so she can avoid the embarrassment of being seen with blood-stained clothes by the other boys and girls. Imagine the same or another girl who simply stays home during her period for the same reasons, or maybe because her period cramps are too painful and she doesn’t have any painkillers. Her education, her physical and mental health, and her dignity are all suffering.
Imagine again the mother who has to choose between paying the electricity and heating bill or giving her kids a meal, or buying pads or tampons for herself. Imagine the woman who has just broken up with her partner and is on the streets, or the woman who has just lost her home and all her worldly possessions due to a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood, or fire. Neither of these women will have easy access to menstrual hygiene products. What are any of these women going to do when their monthly cycle starts?
What we’ve just described is known as Period Poverty. Period Poverty can be defined as “the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management.” Inadequate menstrual hygiene is a global problem, primarily in developing countries, but, perhaps surprisingly to some, also in developed countries such as Australia, the USA, and the UK.
In many countries around the world, there are stigmas and cultural taboos associated with menstruation, perpetuating the idea that menstruating women and girls are ‘unclean’, and contribute to exclusion from school and other activities and opportunities. Girls are afraid of bleeding without proper hygiene products like pads, or they’re afraid of being teased when their classmates find out they’re on their period. But, how could their classmates know? Because in so many places, there aren’t even proper hygiene facilities available in schools and workplaces, so girls have to smuggle their used pads or tampons out of the toilet and find a bin to try to throw them away discreetly.
Physically, period poverty is a huge health risk, as using improper and improvised hygiene products can lead to reproductive and urinary tract infections. In terms of the bigger impact on lives and livelihoods, period poverty stops women from reaching their full potential when they have to miss out on opportunities for growth and development. Young girls who miss out on education due to this issue are at higher risk of entering child marriages and experiencing early pregnancy, malnourishment, domestic violence, and pregnancy complications.
Now, imagine a world where girls and women everywhere are not embarrassed by their periods, don’t miss out on education and life opportunities, and who have access to proper menstrual hygiene products – wouldn’t that be incredible? At Audrey Sun, we are committed to doing what we can to support women and girls’ access to proper, healthy, high quality menstrual hygiene products so that one day period poverty will be a thing of the past.
We’ve partnered with numerous charities and NGOs and donated hundreds of thousands of pads so we can make a difference in as many girls’ and women’s lives as possible.
We’ve donated to Freedom4Girls in the UK, a charity that provides menstrual hygiene essentials and education to girls and women locally and in east Africa. We’ve given World Vision over 80,000 pads to be sent to Eswatini in Africa as part of their WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) program. We’ve provided boxes and boxes of pads to G-Foundation in Seoul, South Korea, to be handed out to girls and women who can’t afford to buy their own. In the wake of the bushfires in Australia in 2019/2020, we donated more pads to Vinnies in Sydney, to help replenish their stocks to be used for displaced bushfire victims and occupants of their women’s shelters.
So, how can you help? Here are some ideas for things you can do to help end period poverty:
- If you’ve every experienced period poverty, share your story. Help others know it’s real, it sucks, and we all share the responsibility to end it.
- Listen to others who are asking for help, and offer what you can.
- End the shame and stigma around periods. Period poverty is a hard thing to talk about, simply because periods are still associated with shame and stigma. Help make it something normal to talk about.
- Donate time and money to organisations who are committed to ending period poverty. A quick google search should bring up plenty of options!
- Purchase your own period products from companies like ours that are doing their part for women and girls around the world.