Period Poverty: What Is It, And How Do We Solve This Huge Problem In India?

Period poverty is the life-long struggle many low-income women and girls face when they can't afford menstrual sanitary products.

It’s the year 2024 and Indian women still have to deal with a lot of period poverty. Reports say that in only 14 Indian states, 9 out of 10 women have access to hygienic methods of menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

Far away in a small village a girl is still embarrassed for getting her first period. There is no education about periods, schools and other places do not have clean toilets, forget access to sanitary products.

In fact, schools in many countries lack proper hygiene management, they don’t have sanitary napkins stocked and mostly lack proper menstrual education. Parents don’t allow their girl child to have access to proper menstrual products, neither they help them learn the right ways of maintaining their sexual health. Who is to be blamed?

A global issue

Period poverty is a global issue that has been overlooked often. A healthy woman symbolises a healthy house inturn a healthy society. A woman is usually denied of her rights in the name of customs and traditions when it comes to menstrual hygiene and this is now become a concern to the entire world. We also had a recent debate on whether a woman should get ‘Period Leaves’ or not. I feel every women should be given a choice to take care of her health and put herself first before anything else.

Menstruation is considered as the onset of puberty in girls, which means it comes with its own set of rules, traditions, restrictions, isolation and a list of expectations from the girls. Some of the changes include but not limited to – restrictions on expressing themselves, going to school, moving around in and outside the house, touching certain things and the freedom of doing whatever they want to has developed certain consequences on the mindset of women.

Menstruation is still considered as a taboo in several parts of the world, India being on the top of the list. Although there are certain communities that even celebrate this as a huge event but situation of a women’s health is still a concern. The strange part is that even today mother’s are reluctant to talk about this with their daughters openly. They hesitate to tell them and fail in educating them.

What is Period Poverty and why are we still facing it?

As described by UNFPA in their article, Period poverty describes the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products. The term also refers to the increased economic vulnerability women and girls face due the financial burden posed by menstrual supplies. These include not only menstrual pads and tampons, but also related costs such as pain medication and underwear.

A study reveals that across the globe over 500 million people/women who menstruate lack access to menstrual hygiene products or associated facilities.
Women go through a lot, it’s not just about the physical changes they undergo during menstruation but the emotional trauma, the stigma, the lacks of education makes them so confused and vulnerable at the same time.

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In many villages across India where the sanitary napkins have been newly introduced the women here don’t know how to dispose them and that’s why the girls and women in these villages are scared of using them.

The sanitary napkins prices have considerably increased in the past years and several women prefer not buying them because of the increases cost and use cloth pads instead which causes hygiene issues, urinary tract infections and other reproductive tract infections.

In many household as the purchasing power lies in the hands of men, women hesitate to ask money for buying pads and hence manage on their own inturn risking their sexual health and neglecting the menstrual hygiene methods.

Although there is change in our country towards Period/ Menstrual Education but it is at very slow pace. There are children who still miss school during periods as they don’t have proper toilets in school, they don’t use sanitary pads or even when their mothers are menstruating they need to stay back as they can’t enter kitchen or do any household chores as per some tradition.

How can we solve Period Poverty?

Education is the key, educating the female in the house will help everyone to understand the importance of female hygiene, menstruation cycle, using sanitary napkins, using right undergarments and the right way of dealing with periods as a natural phenomenon. Like Humjoli Foundation in Maharashtra have started distributing Menstrual kits in villages that include undergarments, sanitary pads, disposable bags and soap. They keep on educating females about menstrual hygiene and how to use sanitary napkins.

This education about periods shouldn’t be limited to females but should also be taught to men in the society so as to make them aware how a women undergoes pain every month and what all she requires during those days to keep herself healthy. This will bring an awareness and will also create a openness for women to speak about it more and share their pain within the society.

The need for menstrual education and sustainable menstruation

India being a country of varied customs and culture, we need to first eradicate the taboo and connectivity of periods with it. Health, hygiene is more necessary than following some tradition that creates a barrier for women to access basic knowledge around it..

Sustainable Menstruation activities have to be focused and discharged among women so that they don’t get scared or hesitate using them. Like using of cloth pads, Menstrual cups that can be reused several time, They can be made easily available and are safe for the environment.

The policies designed under Menstrual Hygiene Management should be same for everyone from a adolescent girl to elderly woman. Access to sanitary products and hygiene products should be similar across age groups.

Government should encourage policies that offer subsidised rates on sanitary pads, Menstrual cups or period pain tablets etc. Polices like making sanitary napkins more readily available in schools, public toilets etc. Most importantly providing safe, hygienic washroom for women in public places should be on top of the list.

There are several NGOs and public foundations that have come forward and have donated sanitary napkins and other hygiene products in villages and rural areas but we need more people to come forward and educate everyone about Period and Period Poverty, then only the girl, the women in our country will grow healthy and happy. Every girl or women born, has the right to lead a safe and healthy life, giving them access to basic healthcare is the least we can all do.

Image source: YouTube/ screenshot from the documentary Period. End of a Sentence

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About the Author

V Rashmi Rao

V Rashmi Rao is a Creative Content Writer and Digital Marketing expert who excels at creating exceptional content across various platforms both Print and Digital. 12+ years in the industry, she has gained immense knowledge read more...

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