top of page

Period Poverty and Gender Equity

Writer: Renata Daou

Editor: Veronica Yung

Graphic Designer & Artist: Maulina Gheananta

Period poverty is defined by the lack of access to sanitary menstrual products, menstrual hygiene education, as well as lack of access to toilets, hand washing facilities and waste management.

This problem mainly affects girls and women as the lack of these basic resources many times prevent them from studying and working. It also affects their opportunities for socialization, eating certain types of foods and also increases the stigma related to period also affects the girls’ mental health.

According to the non-profit organization “Days for Girls,” there are more than 500 million people around the world, which is about 25% of menstruators, who lack the necessary conditions to manage their periods properly. This means that 500 million people around the world don’t have access to basic hygienical products or educational resources to have their periods safely.

This can be caused in part by the lack of education and the high prices of menstrual products, which are oftentimes considered “luxury,” and are heavily taxed even though people cannot choose whether or not they menstruate. These taxes, named the “pink taxes” due to the idea of the color pink usually being associated with women, raise the price of menstrual products, making them unaffordable to many people.

According to Pandia Health, women generally menstruate once a month from the ages of 13 to 51, with the periods lasting from three to seven days. This means a total of 456 periods, which are about 6.25 years or 2,280 days of having a period. Just counting pads and tampons together (not including other costs related to menstruation such as period cups, panty liners, ruined panties, painkillers for cramps, and other medical needs), women spend around $6,525.33 on their periods.

In the calculation done by Pandia Health, if a woman used one tampon every six hours and four tampons every day, she uses a total of 9,120 tampons in her life. One box costs $7, and there are 36 tampons per box. The total cost of tampons for a lifetime equals $1,773.33. For pads, if a woman uses three to five pads a day over a five-day period, she spends around $4,752. This sums up to a total of $6,525.33. The cost of menstrual products can be an issue for women of low income that can’t afford to pay these prices.

Days for Girls define three different sections in which period poverty can affect a menstruators’ life.

The first is general health. Not having the access to those menstrual products can cause urinary and genital infections as well as unmanaged menstrual pain. When people do not have the means to buy menstrual products they resort to unhygienic alternatives, and can end up with health problems related to skin irritation, vaginal itching, and white or green discharge.

The second point is stigmatization and shame. Not having an adequate period education can lead girls to be excluded from family and community activities. They can also become distressed by the lack of opportunities due to their inability to take care of their periods. This can cause isolation, depression, abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, and even suicide.

The third point is school and work absenteeism. Women and girls around the world who do not have access to adequate resources to manage their periods many times have to lose valuable days of school and work, which enhances women’s wage loss and performing worse in school. Difficulty in focusing or performing during school and work can occur when girls cannot access safe menstrual health and products. Those girls don’t have access to the resources that would allow them to perform their jobs effectively.

It’s also important to note the stigma around menstruating as a trans person. It is important that we remember that “not all menstruators are women, and not all women menstruate,” as Ashley Rapp and Sidonie Kilpatrick, Master's Students in Epidemiology at the University of Michigan point out.

Period poverty becomes a worldwide problem as word poverty is directly related to period poverty. Girls around the world are missing school due to the stigma around menstruation. According to National Geographic, In countries like Turkey, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom, around one in ten girls have missed school at some point due to lack of access to proper period products. In the United States, the problem is even worse as one in five girls have missed school.

According to the World Bank, this has a drastic effect on the world’s economy. For every extra year, a girl gets in primary education, the girl’s wage rate increases by about 10 to 20%. With an increase of just 1% of women in secondary education increases a country’s annual per capita income growth rate by 0.3 percent. This means that period poverty does not only affect the people menstruating, but also every single person around the world.

To fight period poverty, consider donating to organizations such as Days for Girls as they provide period pad deliveries around the world, they promote health education and advocacy related to period poverty, as well as helping local leaders establish businesses that can provide period kits and health education. Another group to pay attention to is called PERIOD as they distribute free menstrual products for those in need and provide educational resources for menstruators and allies, focusing on an intersectional approach to menstrual equity.




Submit an article!

Share your story, share your voice
bottom of page