Wadded up toilet paper, rinsed or reused pads and tampons, fear of leaving your home one week out of the month. These scenarios are the reality for menstruating individuals living in poverty. And the troubling reality is that women are 38 percent more likely to suffer poverty than men.
The added expense of hygienic products for periods is an expense many women cannot afford. When forced to choose between period products or feeding their families, women choose the latter. Learn more about this issue and what you can do to help those suffering period poverty.
What is period poverty?
Period poverty is what an individual suffers from when they cannot afford period supplies, such as pads, tampons and pain relievers. Many campaigns showcase this problem in third-world countries, such as some African countries, but until recently, there was very little awareness of the issue in the United States.
One research study found that a woman’s period will cost approximately $18,000 in her lifetime. The study estimated these expenses based on the average menstruation period of ages 13-51 and the average period lasting three to seven days. In total, that means a woman spends approximately 2,280 days menstruating or 6.25 years of her life.
That's 2,280 days that a woman without period supplies feels self-conscious leaving her home. 2,280 days where a woman creates her own period supplies with household items or bashfully rinses out the period supplies she does have to reuse it, risking serious hazards to her health from infection.
But the issue of period poverty isn’t just about discomfort or self-conscious feelings. The real issue of period poverty is the fact that women without these supplies often cannot leave their homes for several days per month.
Missing school or work due to period poverty
According to the Always Confidence in Puberty Survey, one in five girls in the U.S. misses class or doesn’t attend school due to not having the necessary period products. Missing out on important days in the classroom can mean that these young girls struggle to end the cycle of poverty.
But the issue of staying home during menstruation doesn’t only apply to young school-aged girls. A recent study showed that 13.8 percent of women miss work or call in sick because of their period. And 3.4 percent of women reported missing a day of work every menstrual cycle.
Some women weren't completely absent from work during their periods but still reported lost productivity due to their period or menstruation-related symptoms.
Missed work makes it more difficult for women to earn enough money to support themselves and their families and can further contribute to the financial hardships of those living in poverty.
How to end period poverty
Access to hygiene products can greatly impact the health of menstruating individuals. And while it may not immediately pull these people out of poverty, it can contribute to their dignity and reduce the amount of missed school and work they experience each menstrual cycle.
Ending period poverty means getting everyone involved in affecting change – including those who never experience menstruation. This is not just a women’s issue as it affects the economy as a whole.
Here are some simple ways that men and women alike can get involved and end period poverty in their communities.
- Share this article and other studies linked to period poverty on social media to raise awareness for this hidden challenge so many women face in the U.S.
- Encourage your local officials to repeal the “pink tax” on period products in your state.
- Donate period supplies to women in need in your community.
Together, we can bring dignity through household products we take for granted.