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Period Poverty: An Unbreakable Cycle of Challenges

While getting your menstrual cycle can be an alarming experience for young girls, it tends to become a standard monthly occurrence as time passes. However, for some women in lower-income and underprivileged areas, the menstrual cycle is beyond alarming since they are affected by period poverty. Period poverty can be defined as “inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management.” As it affects millions of women globally, period poverty can lead to physical, mental, and emotional distress, leaving an impression and harming individuals. If this global issue were to be broken down to be better understood, it would focus on two main areas: hygiene tools and education on how to safely manage your periods, or the lack thereof.


Hygiene Tools


Period products, such as pads and tampons, are known to be expensive and can be a financial burden, making them not attainable for everyone who needs them. According to the 2021 State of the Period report, 23% of K-12 students who were surveyed struggled to afford period products. Situations like these can often lead them to have to choose between buying food and buying products or wearing products for longer than recommended, causing further health complications and safety concerns. On the other hand, for some in resourceless areas, buying products is not an option at all, and they are forced to improvise with old blankets, rags, or newspapers, none of which are intended to serve as a hygiene tool. Adding to the cost of these products, the example of the “tampon tax” in the United States highlights exactly how period products can be overpriced, making them not affordable for all. Despite the fact that almost half of the population of the U.S. has had to buy period products for decades, they are still taxed as non-essential items in 21 states as of June 30, 2023.


Education


Regarding education, women affected by period poverty may not have the proper information on how to manage their periods safely. Not only is there a stigma around the menstrual cycle, but that stigma leads to a lack of communication and negative associations with periods. The 2021 State of the Period report further states that 74% of surveyed students have questions about their periods and despite the fact that students might be ready to learn, the people around them (parents, teachers, friends, etc.) are too uncomfortable to communicate or lack the resources to do so properly. For some families in South and Southeast Asia, periods are viewed as taboo and impure. Hence, women can not manage their periods with full confidence and are instead taught to view them as something to fear from a young age, leading to shame and guilt. Further contributing, shame and guilt hinder the ability of women to speak up about these menstrual issues affecting them such as access to products, the taxing of products, and harmful ingredients used to make products.


Call to Action


Overall, period poverty essentially creates a cycle of challenges for women. From a young age, women are taught to develop a negative association with their period, and for some, they lack the products and education to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle. Because of this, they can miss school and start to fall behind their peers, leading to an eventual gap in the workforce where these women should have been able to excel. Even if they grow a family, the cycle can continue on to affect their kids, especially if they continue to grow up in similar conditions.

Hence, now more than ever, it is important to be educated about period poverty to aid others who struggle in the fight against it. Not only can period poverty be debilitating but going about it alone can lead women to face mental health issues, never allowing them to break out of the cycle. It is crucial to normalize conversations about periods and talk to teens about how to purchase period products. On a larger scale, it is important to do more research to better understand the scope of the problem, build a coalition of advocates, and serve as an advocate for key issues.


Lindsay.Capozzi. (2021c, April 6). Period poverty: the public health crisis we don’t talk about. PolicyLab. https://policylab.chop.edu/blog/period-poverty-public-health-crisis-we-dont-talk-about

PERIOD. (2021). State of the period 2021. State of the Period 2021. https://period.org/uploads/State-of-the-Period-2021.pdf

Sharfin, S. (2023b, May 8). The impact of period poverty on students. Aunt Flow. https://goauntflow.com/blog/the-impact-of-period-poverty-on-students/




Prerana Kodakandla, Bentonville, 11th Grade, Instagram - @prerana.kodakandla


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