This article is part of a running series with Rowan University’s Wellness Center. This collaboration aims to educate students about personal well-being options. For further updates, follow @RowanUWellness on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
At any given moment, around 800 million people are menstruating. From this, we can determine that about 26% of the human population are menstruators. In addition, this number is trending to increase as the onset of puberty continues to occur at younger ages.
Period poverty can be defined as a public health crisis that refers to the lack of access to menstrual hygiene and care products each month as well as inadequate education about the menstruation process.
These deficiencies lead to unhealthy, or even dangerous, menstrual hygiene practices. The lack of menstrual products in circulation also leaves the well-being of millions of menstruators unable to execute their day-to-day tasks comfortably and even possibly lead to crucial harm to the body. As a result, menstruators across the globe are missing out on school or work activities, sometimes for the entire duration of their period.
Period poverty is typically caused by menstruators being burdened with harsh impurity stigmas as well as suffering from economic inequalities. For example, in Pakistan, a 2017 poll indicated that 49% of young menstruators had no knowledge of menstruation before their first period. It is also common practice in Pakistan to use rags and cloths to take care of menses which are often shared between family members, leading to high risks of infection. In Ethiopia, 75% of menstruators do not have reliable access to products leading to 25% of menstruators simply going without using any. For most Ethiopian menstruators, sanitary products cost an entire day’s pay. The Period Poverty, which is already burdening Scotland, has undergone an increase due to the COVID-19 emergency, with 1 in 4 menstruators having experienced infection due to the lack of access to sanitary menstrual products.
A common misconception is that Period Poverty is a “far away” problem that only occurs in developing countries. In reality, Period Poverty is just as much of a public health crisis here in the United States with the main cause being due to impoverishment and economic inequality. In fact, 27 out of 50 states currently enact a luxury tax on menstrual products. As of 2020, 1 in 4 American menstruators struggle to afford period products leading to 1 in 5 menstruators missing school, work and day-to-day activities. COVID-19 has undoubtedly only inflamed these statistics along with the national poverty rates.
So, what can be done to combat Period Poverty? There is a lot more to understanding why Period Poverty happens, such as policies, legislation, systemic and economic inequality, that complicate the process of rectifying these problems.
Currently, there are countless organizations making efforts to ease the burden for impoverished menstruators. Some exceptional ones include Happy Period, Hate the Dot and Code Red Collective. Period Equity is a notable organization of lawyers who are dedicated to eradicating the tax on period products in the U.S. through policy, which would be a huge stride towards economic equality efforts.
Menstruation is such a common and relatable process that menstruators are typically told they should be ashamed of. Yet, it is quite literally the essence of human life that gave everyone existence. With that, everyone should be encouraged to remember that menstruator rights are human rights, and the unspoken burdens of Period Poverty are humanitarian issues that deserve to be heard.
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Logan Johnson, junior biological sciences major, Wellness Center intern
Stephanie Batista, junior business management major
Lucas Taylor, senior English education major