Period Poverty: The Public Health Crisis We Don’t Talk About
When I first started the Design for Sustainability program at SCAD, I already knew that at some point I wanted to work on a project revolving around Women Empowerment, through Women-Centered Design. Empowered girls and women contribute to the health and productivity of their families, communities, and countries, creating a ripple effect that benefits everyone.
And so I decided to focus on the topic of Period Poverty. But what’s that?
Period poverty is a term that describes the struggle that many women, girls, and those who menstruate face because they lack access to adequate menstrual health products, supplies and education, leading to emotional and physical health challenges.
Over 500 million girls and women do not have access to information and resources to manage their periods in a dignified way. Shocking, right?
According to the charitable organization Days for Girls, globally over 500 million women and girls, experience period poverty.
Health challenges include urinary and other genital infections along with immense menstrual pain which happens when menstruators do not have access to menstrual health education and supplies. A lack of access to these products can negatively affect someone’s mental health as well.
The issue of period poverty is shrouded in stigma and shame.
It can make individuals feel shame for menstruating instead of celebrating it, and the stigma surrounding it prevents them from having an open discussion thus leading to isolation, depression, abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation and even suicide.
Those impacted because of period poverty miss school or work, go without eating, and because they are unable to purchase supplies, use unsafe alternatives like socks, rags, or bed linens.
10% to 20% of global school days are missed because of stigma and bullying, as nearly half of the girls and women between the ages of 16 and 24 years feel embarrassed by their periods.[Victoria J. Haneman (Volume 10 — Spring 2021). Journal of Race, Gender and Ethnicity]
By making pads, tampons, cups, or other period products the centre of attention, we are missing the larger problem which is stigma, that prevents individuals from asking for any help or support, leading to physical, mental, and emotional challenges.
There is an opportunity to change the public perception of menstruation by talking about it more freely and smashing the taboo that keeps menstruators in the dark about their own bodies for generations.