What is ‘Period Poverty’?
Period poverty occurs when a woman or girl is unable to afford sanitary care to manage her period. The silence around menstruation means that sanitary products are a hidden cost that women all around the world struggle to deal with. Although period poverty is often considered an issue only affecting third world countries, the reality is that it will exist anywhere that people live below the poverty line. Without access to sanitary care, affected girls and women are unable to go about their lives. In many cases, girls and young women may miss school during their period, compromising their education which in turn makes it harder for them to break the poverty cycle.
A Global Issue
A 2017 study by Plan International UK discovered that 1 in 10 girls in the UK has experienced period poverty with some girls borrowing sanitary products from friends or having to improvise with toilet paper or clothing, due to the cost. Figures from the Trussel Trust indicate that food bank usage in the UK is at the highest levels ever due to low incomes, increases in debt and decreasing welfare. As people without money for food will also have no money for sanitary wear, it follows that period poverty is also on the rise. In more rural countries the effect is more acute. In Kenya, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) estimates more than 50 percent of school-aged girls experience period poverty, while in Nepal and Afghanistan 30 percent miss school during menstruation. In countries where early-marriage is rife, remaining in secondary school education makes girls 6 times less likely marry young, and also provides other crucial benefits such as decreases in infant, child and maternal mortality rates.
Extensive campaigning and protests in the UK has brought period poverty to the forefront of female rights with #freeperiods and #periodpotential petitions taking the issue to Downing Street. This summer Scotland has put aside £5.2m to provide students with free sanitary products, however in England it still falls to charitable organisations to support those experiencing period poverty. It’s the same case in rural countries where government support is limited on this taboo subject.
How is Your Smalls Appeal Helping?
Your Smalls Appeal is one of these charities supporting women and girls in developing countries. The charity provides them with recycled bras to wear and menstruation kits to help them have a clean, safe and dignified period. Additional funding is carefully used to support girls and young women’s education with an aim to break the cycle of poverty. Starting out in The Gambia and now expanding to Mombasa, Kenya, Your Smalls Appeal partners with schools, medical centres and other charities in order to make the biggest impact.
What Can You Do?
To end period poverty talking about the issue and removing the stigma attached to menstruation is essential. Use social media to spread the word, sign petitions and write to your MP to raise the issue with government and demand action. To help women and girls in rural countries, you can support charities such as Your Smalls Appeal by giving good quality bras, new underwear and toiletries, or donating funds to cover shipping and the menstruation kits.