Period Poverty: A Human Rights issue
Period poverty is characterized as a lack of access to period hygiene tools and information, such as sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management, among other things. Because of the scarcity of sanitary napkins, as well as the lack of washing facilities and waste disposal, this has become an expensive affair. The goal of the period poverty discussion is to start a discourse about how to minimize stigma and spread adequate menstrual knowledge.
Period poverty affects around 500 million people worldwide. In the United States alone, 16.9 million people who menstruate are living in poverty. Research has shown that around two thirds of menstruating people are low income, making them more likely to be unable to afford menstrual products, and some even having to choose between buying food and menstrual products. It also affects people’s work, with 73% of menstruating people in Bangladesh missing 6 or more days of work per month due to their periods, for example.
INDIA’S PERIOD POVERTY:
Due to lack of resources, India’s initiative to exclude sanitary napkins from service tax has not had a significant impact. Only 12% of menstruators in India have access to proper period products, according to research by the Indian Ministry of Health. The remaining 88 percent, on the other hand, are mostly reliant on hazardous materials such as rags, cloth, hay, sand, and ash as their only options, which can lead to serious health issues like Toxic Shock Syndrome.
BREAK THE STIGMA:
Even though period poverty is a serious global health crisis, there is still stigma surrounding it in most cultures. The stigma behind it is the reason why the problem is largely ignored. Many cultures see menstruation as dirty or shameful, which leads to people not seeking outside help if they find themselves struggling with period poverty which also leads to the spreading of dangerous misinformation: one extremely harmful piece of misinformation out there is that having a period is a “women-only” experience, but this is wholly untrue. Not everyone who has a period is a woman, and not all women have periods, for many reasons.
This kind of thinking not only erases the trans/non-binary experience, it also ensures that many trans/non-binary people aren’t afforded access to period accommodations, such as having insert-only products, or not having products available, at all, anywhere.
HOW MENSTRUATION IS RELATED TO HUMAN RIGHTS:
One of the most glaring but under-prioritised gender-related issues is menstrual health, which unfortunately gets compartmentalised as a women’s problem instead of getting noticed as a public health challenge and a barrier to nation-building. Menstruation is intrinsically related to human dignity – when people cannot access safe bathing facilities and safe and effective means of managing their menstrual hygiene, they are not able to manage their menstruation with dignity. Societal restrictions during menstruation violate women’s right to health, equality and privacy. Several anecdotes reveal that women and girls are kept in isolation, not allowed to enter religious places or kitchens, play outside or even go to schools during menstruation.
HOW CAN WE HELP:
The way forward lies in a community-based approach in which local influencers and decision-makers are sensitised to champion the issue and behavioural change campaigns targeted at both men and women are deployed to dispel myths and misconceptions.
There is also a huge opportunity to create public-private collaborations to drive such campaigns and increase access to affordable menstrual hygiene products for rural and semi-urban regions. This could be done through the installation of sanitary pad vending machines at key public places, workplaces, schools, and colleges, as well as Anganwadi centres or childcare centres for rural areas.
“First, however, it is crucial to acknowledge that menstrual health is not just a women’s issue, but a matter of human rights".