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2018 11 28 period poverty title

Period Poverty: What it can cost to be a girl

For most women, the period is a necessary evil - one that has come and gone about once a month since you were a teenager. In a few cultures, a girl's first period is celebrated as a sign of growing up and becoming a woman, but in most other cultures, menstruating girls and women are considered unclean. They are not allowed to take part in social activities and are completely isolated. To this day, there are signs outside religious temples that read: "No cameras, no shoes, no menstruating women." According to the Indian government, more than half of 16-year-old Indian women no longer go to school - most of them drop out as soon as they get their period. The reason for this is usually a lack of money for hygiene products and no sanitary facilities to wash themselves. No education, no independent livelihood, financial dependence. A vicious circle.

If they can't afford tampons, let them drink champagne

The term "period poverty" refers to the lack of access to hygiene products for financial reasons. It is often associated purely with developing countries. Wrongly. In German-speaking countries, one in ten women cannot afford sanitary products, partly because tampons and sanitary towels are taxed like luxury items such as champagne. Over the course of our lives, we need 10,000 to 17,000 tampons or pads for our average 500 menstrual periods (at least if we don't use a menstrual cup). The Huffington Post calculated that being a menstruating woman "usually" costs over €20,000 in total.

Away with the taxes, away with the stigma

Some countries have already followed the call for tax cuts on feminine hygiene products: France reduced VAT from 20 to 5% in 2015, and the UK and Spain are also at between 5 and 10%. Individual pilot projects such as that of the Scottish administrative district of North Ayrshire Council show that even more is possible: the district provides feminine hygiene products free of charge in all schools and public buildings, in line with the motto "feminine hygiene products are not a choice, but a necessity". But as long as periods remain a social taboo, as long as TV adverts continue to depict menstrual blood with blue fluid; so long the very real financial problems of so many women are prevented from being either recognised or discussed on public platforms.

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Removing taboos through education

But how do you take the embarrassment out of a socially taboo subject like period poverty? Probably only by starting with oneself and talking about it as freely and honestly as possible. Girls, boys and men alike need to be told that it is a completely natural process, pure biology and part of our reproductive system. The 28th of May was recently declared "International Menstrual Hygiene Day". This day is now representative of a movement that is slowly but surely progressing towards its goal of ensuring that access to hygiene products is no longer linked to a woman's financial means.

Attached is a list of some organisations in Europe and North America that are also committed to this goal. If you are interested, there are of course many other, more local organisations that are also dependent on support.

Periodic Table e.V. (Berlin, Germany)

Social Period e.V. (Germany)

Caritas Vienna (Austria)

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)

Sources:

Hausbichler (2022), Cheaper or free menstruation

Menstruation deprives girls of the chance of education (2022)

Sen (2022), Menstruation forces India's women into isolation

Moss (2022), Women Spend More Than £18,000 On Having Periods In Their Lifetime

 

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