For most women having a period is just a once a month occurrence that we have to endure from our early teenage years. We are regularly reminded that we should embrace it and value our menstrual cycle as a symbol of womanhood and for its relevance to our fertility. In some cultures, a young woman´s first period is seen as a rite of passage and celebrated as a coming of age. In other cultures, periods are considered unclean and women may not take part in communal activities until she has been purified again.
For most of us though our period is simply a mild irritation, with a few more or less unpleasant symptoms, that we deal with in private and regard as very personal. But have you ever taken the financial cost of your period into consideration? For some women, and not only third world women, period poverty is a very real issue. ‘Period poverty’ refers to having a lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. Something that many of us are lucky enough to probably take for granted and it is a worldwide problem. Can you imagine that for some women in your town sanitary towels are an unattainable luxury.
School girls routinely miss school because they are unable to afford sanitary products. If a family are struggling financially it is very difficult for a girl to raise the subject of her period and menstrual towels, particularly if the subject is considered taboo. These girls are resorting to stuffing socks and taping tissues to underwear – and they don´t feel they can share their dilemma and embarrassment with anyone. Embarrassment is bad enough in and of itself, but when an inevitable bit of our biology causes us to miss out on daily life, there’s even more need to overcome it. We simply can’t accept that vulnerable young women are being blocked from their education.
While we have become used to seeing adverts for menstrual products on TV or in other media channels, the shame and the stigma surrounding periods still persists, why for example is blue liquid used for sanitary towel adverts instead of red? It is this attitude to menstruation that is keeping the very real and valid financial problems of so many women from being recognised and discussed on public platforms.
So how do we take the embarrassment and the taboo out of periods? By ending the silence surrounding periods, we need to banish this ridiculous shame through conversation. Ditch the taboo and start talking about our periods as freely and honestly as possible. We can teach girls, as well as boys and men, that they are a completely natural process, part of the reproductive cycle, and are definitely nothing to be ashamed about. Through education, it´s just biology not rocket science. By recognising periods as the fact of life that they are. By normalising talk and discussion about menstruation.
Period Poverty has always existed but up until recently the subject was just brushed under the carpet. Slowly but surely a movement has begun to end the period taboo and to take a step towards eliminating period poverty. Below, you will find a very short list of some organisations in Europe and North America who are making a change. If you are interested in supporting a group near you there are many more out there.
Red Box Project (UK) The Homeless Period Project (UK) Bloody Good Period (UK) #FreePeriods (UK) Freedom4Girls – a UK registered charity providing menstrual products to women and girls in Kenya #EndPeriodPoverty Always (North America and UK) Girls Helping Girls. Period (USA) She Pad Scheme (India)