It is estimated that around half of the global population, or approximately 3.5 billion people, are of reproductive age and therefore have the potential to experience periods. This includes people who identify as female, as well as some people who are transgender or non-binary and may also experience menstrual cycles. According to data from the World Bank, in 2021, about 8.6% of the global population, or about 689 million people, lived in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.90 per day. In addition, many more people live in poverty but above the extreme poverty line. As a menstruating person in poverty, products such as tampons, pads and period underwear are too expensive to buy and use.

What is period poverty?

Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and education due to poverty or lack of resources. This can lead to difficulties managing menstrual hygiene, which can have negative impacts on the health, education, and economic opportunities of those affected. The term is often used to describe situations in which individuals or communities are unable to afford or access sanitary pads, tampons, or other products that they need to manage their periods in a hygienic and dignified way. It is a global issue that affects people in many different countries, although it is most prevalent in developing countries where access to resources and education may be limited. 

What are the consequences of period poverty? 

Period poverty can have a number of negative consequences, both for individuals and for communities. Some of the potential consequences of period poverty include:

  1. Health problems: Lack of access to menstrual hygiene products can lead to poor menstrual hygiene management, which can in turn lead to health problems such as infections and reproductive health issues.
  2. Educational disadvantages: In some areas, girls and women may miss school or work when they have their periods because they lack access to menstrual hygiene products or because of stigma surrounding menstruation. This can lead to educational disadvantages that can have long-term consequences for their economic opportunities.
  3. Economic disadvantages: In some cases, people who lack access to menstrual hygiene products may miss work or school due to their periods, which can have negative impacts on their income and employment prospects.
  4. Stigma and discrimination: In some societies, menstruation is stigmatised and associated with shame, which can lead to discrimination and exclusion of people who have periods.
  5. Environmental impacts: Disposable menstrual hygiene products, such as pads and tampons, can contribute to environmental waste and pollution. Lack of access to these products can also lead to the use of unsanitary and environmentally damaging alternatives, such as rags or newspaper.

Overall, period poverty can have far-reaching and negative consequences for individuals and communities, and addressing this issue is important for promoting health, education, and economic opportunities for all.

What is the solution to period poverty?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to period poverty. However, there are a number of measures that can be taken to address the issue and improve access to menstrual hygiene products and education:

  1. Increasing access to menstrual hygiene products: This can be done through providing products directly to people in need, such as through schools or health clinics, or by providing financial assistance or subsidies to help people purchase products.
  2. Promoting education and understanding about menstruation: This can include providing education about menstrual hygiene, dispelling myths and stigma surrounding menstruation, and promoting a greater understanding and acceptance of menstruation in society.
  3. Advocating for policy change: Advocacy efforts can be directed towards policies and programs that promote access to menstrual hygiene products and education, such as initiatives to provide free or subsidised products or to implement comprehensive sex education programs.
  4. Supporting research and development: Research can help to improve understanding of the challenges and needs related to menstrual hygiene and identify effective solutions. Support for research and development can help to drive progress in this area.
  5. Promoting sustainability: Encouraging the use of reusable menstrual products, such as dais period underwear, can help to reduce waste and environmental impacts.

Ultimately, addressing period poverty will require a multifaceted approach that takes into account the specific needs and challenges of different communities and cultures.

Is there period poverty in Europe?

Period poverty is a global issue that affects people in many different countries, including in Europe. While access to menstrual hygiene products and education may be more widespread in Europe compared to some other parts of the world, there are still individuals and communities in Europe who may struggle to afford or access these resources.

For example, in some countries in Europe, there are reports of people resorting to using unsanitary alternatives, such as newspaper or cloth, because they cannot afford disposable pads or tampons. In addition, some people may be unable to access menstrual hygiene products due to stigma, lack of education, or other barriers.

Overall, while the situation in Europe may not be as severe as in some other parts of the world, period poverty is still an important issue that needs to be addressed in order to promote health, education, and economic opportunities for all.

January 03, 2023 — Grace Forsyth