IN SCOTLAND, THE PARLIAMENT HAS APPROVED A BILL THAT WOULD MAKE THE COUNTRY THE FIRST ONE TO END PERIOD POVERTY.
Period poverty affects millions of women and girls all over the world day by day. The term, per se, means when those on low incomes can’t afford, or access suitable period products. The average woman spends 2,533 days of her life menstruating. So, regardless of her financial or social situation, she has to purchase or otherwise obtain access to enough pads, tampons or menstrual cups to bleed for almost seven years of her life. Bloody hell!
Public awareness about period poverty has ignited a movement calling for free and accessible pads and tampons in restrooms and public spaces around the world. This is not just a potential health risk, but it also affects education, well-being, as sometimes entire lives are affected.
Globally, 2.3 billion people live without basic sanitation services and in developing countries, only 27% of people have adequate hand washing facilities at home, according to UNICEF. Not being able to use these facilities makes it harder for women and young girls to manage their periods safely and with dignity. Women with disabilities and special needs face additional challenges with a lack of access to toilets with water and materials to manage their period. Furthermore, living in conflict-affected areas, or in the aftermath of natural disasters, also makes it much more difficult.
As an example, when you only have 5 dollars in your pocket when your period arrives, you may have to choose between buying tampons and eating. Even worse, sanitary products or food for your kids. Even though this example is corny and unfathomable, it is a reality for many. In Nepal, menstruating women are seen as impure by their community and banished to huts during their cycles. In Sub-Saharan Africa, some girls will miss as much as 20% of their school year. They possibly may even drop out of school altogether. The loss of education can mean girls are more likely to be forced into child marriage. In India, Kenya and Cambodia mattress stuffing and leaves are often used for menstrual management. In Bangladesh, they use old clothing.
Poor menstrual hygiene can cause physical health risks and has been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections, according to UNICEF. It also stops women from reaching their full potential when they miss out on opportunities crucial to their growth. Young girls who do not receive an education are more likely to enter child marriages and experience early pregnancy, malnourishment, domestic violence, and pregnancy complications. Period-shaming, teasing, exclusion all have negative mental effects, causing them to feel embarrassed about a normal biological process.
The first step should be to normalize menstruation and destroy taboos around the natural process.
Young boys benefit from menstrual hygiene education, too. Afterward, a policy must be enforced to make menstrual products, sanitation, and hygiene easily accessible. Activists and advocates are demanding that governments prioritize menstrual equity policy, but historically the issue has presented a challenge. We shouldn’t just abolish the “pink-tax” – these products should be made completely free of charge.
“Politicians don’t like the issue because it’s not sexy,” said Dr. Varina Tjon A Ten, a former parliamentarian in the Netherlands and a professor at The Hague University.
“It’s simple,” head of human rights at WASH United, Hannah Neumeyer explained, “women and girls have human rights, and they have periods. One should not defeat the other.”
This year, as International Women’s Day is approaching, show some extra appreciation and love to all the women in your surroundings. Go and support the NGOs, initiatives, or advocates’ work to end this form of gender inequality. We all have to unite to slowly arrive in the 21st century!
I would like to finish off with my favorite quote about the issue said by Trevor Noah: “It’s crazy that half the population has to pay so much for a natural process. Imagine if there was a tax on boners, I would’ve been bankrupt by the time I was 13.”
This day is such an amazing opportunity to thank all of the smart, wonderful, kind, charming and powerful women out there! Thank you for being so strong! Also, it is a reminder for everyone in the world to admire and support women, for they deserved it!
Happy International Women’s Day!
The author of this article was Szebasztián Simic, an undergraduate student at the University of Szeged studying for an International Relations and a Political Sciences degree.
This article was originally published at timesinternational.net.