What is Period Poverty and Why It Matters
For years, institutions of patriarchy have suppressed all conversations about menstruation to nothing more than hushed whispers. But as time has gone by, it has become clearer that a period is not some clinical, disconnected biological process only to be regarded in the closed wards of the house. Rather, periods are deeply connected to many social, political, and economic spheres of society. This blog post will attempt to highlight a few such points of overlap, emphasizing on the movement of Period Poverty.
What is Period Poverty?
Period Poverty, as the term suggests, broadly refers to the inadequate access of menstrual resources. This usually translates to most as the inaccessibility of sanitary products due to their high cost. But, the important thing to note here is that Period Poverty doesn’t just talk about the more tangible menstrual resources (like pads, tampons etc.) but also more indirect resources such as education about menstrual hygiene or proper sanitation facilities.
What Has Been Done About It?
In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on the lack of menstrual products due to economic disparities, and for good reason. A report from the Indian Ministry of Health highlighted that only about 12% of menstruators in India have access to proper period products. The rest of the 88% rely on materials like rags, cloth, or hay to get through their period. Understandably, such unsafe materials lead to a variety of health problems for these people. Thus when India announced a GST of 12% on sanitary products as a ‘luxury item’, a series of demonstrations by activist groups and celebrities helped scrap this ‘blood tax’ for good in 2018.
While it is important to concentrate on making the sanitary products accessible for all, it is also time to begin thinking about other aspects of Period Poverty. One such problem that was highlighted was that about 40% of all government schools in India lack proper functioning of common toilets and 40% lacks separate toilets for girls. To tackle this problem the government launched the “Swachh Bharat: Swachh Vidyalaya” campaign in 2014, to ensure every school in India has functional and well-maintained ‘WASH’ facilities. The ‘WASH’ facilities included the availability of soap, private space for changing, adequate water for washing, and disposal facilities for used menstrual products. While this is a step in the right direction, there is still a lot of scope for improvement in matters of sanitation and menstrual waste disposal.
Another important sphere to be concentrated on is education regarding menstruation and hygiene. Around 71% of girls in India are unaware of menstruation before their first period. This lack of information can lead to health problems, stigma, and an overall bad menstruation experience for a lot of people.
It is now time to acknowledge that Period Poverty is a problem that affect a variety of spheres- social, economic, political- across the country. To work towards Period Equity is to work towards goals in public health and sanitation, gender equality, girl’s education, and a plethora of other important issues.
What Can You Do About It?
At an individual level, it is important for us to know how important a problem Period Poverty is. Further, it is necessary to know that Period Poverty doesn’t just mean the lack of pads, but also the lack of information and conversation around periods. Having conversations in itself is an important resource to break the stigma that surrounds menstruation and lead fuller, freer lives.
With some government plans already functioning and others in the making, we need to continue talking about these issues, raising awareness, donating when we can, and hoping for a future wherein every menstruator has proper access to menstrual products and information.