Period Poverty: The Shocking Statistics and Simple Solutions
Sustainable and ethical tourism, at its heart, is about making a positive difference. The income brought in by this kind of tourism benefits the communities, natural environments and charity work surrounding the operators on the ground, all around the world. It allows children to go to school, wildlife to be protected, communities to receive healthcare and business opportunities, and natural habitats to be restored.
Our experiences while travelling can inspire us to take action once we land on home soil. We might see something that changes us. A trip on safari could open our eyes to the importance of wildlife conservation. A visit to a rural school could make us realise just how valuable education is to the children in these communities. Sometimes we can make a difference by travelling with sustainable operators and other times the best impact we can achieve is from home, inspired by our travels.
But one issue that’s kept muchly in the dark, is period poverty.
The Challenge of Period Poverty
Menstruation is experienced by at least half the human population at some point in their lives, usually over the course of 3-4 decades, and has been since before the human race fully evolved. Therefore, the pervasiveness of period poverty as a global issue throughout even the most privileged and developed countries is shocking. The fact that it exists at all, is unacceptable.
We can define period poverty as the inability to access affordable and hygienic menstrual products; the negative and harmful treatment towards people who menstruate; and the lack of education on the subject of menstruation, including functions, hygiene and products. Here are a just small number of facts and statistics about the severity of period poverty around the world:
- 77% of menstruating people in central-west Nepal experience menstrual exile, even though the practice was made illegal in 2005
- 70% of reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene
- 65% of menstruating people in Kenya do not have access to sanitary products and 10% of 15-year-olds in Kenya have been pressured to exchange sex for sanitary products
- Only 15% of menstruating people in Nepal have access to hygienic sanitary products
- 95% of young menstruating people in rural Ghana have missed school because they have no access to sanitary pads
- Many cultures around the world still perceive menstruation as unclean or impure
- Misconceptions, stigma and myths about menstruation still prevail and impact the lives of menstruating people, even in developed countries
- Many adolescents across the world experience negative feelings and thoughts associated with menstruation, such as fear, shame and disgust
Tackling the Challenge
Various charities and organisations are committed to ending period poverty across the world. Together they are fighting to ensure menstrual products are easily and reliably available to menstruating people, to provide education and to end stigma.
Days for Girls
Days for Girls, a non-profit organisation campaigning to provide sustainable menstrual health solutions to young people across the world, advocate global policy change and elevate the importance of menstrual hygiene. DFG began in 2008, following the experiences of its Founder, Celeste Mergens, in rural Kenya. She found that girls in the orphanage she was working at were sitting on cardboard in their rooms for the duration of their period, going without food for days unless someone brought it to them.
This led to the development of the DFG pad, a washable and reusable pad that can last for up to 3 years! Not only are reusable pads hugely beneficial in terms of reducing plastic waste but they allow menstruating people to take back their lives – to go to school or work, to spend time with friends and family, and feel secure with confidence during their periods.
DFG also works to globally impact government policies and social norms for the benefit of menstruators and menstrual health & hygiene. Governments and coalitions they are currently working with include:
- South Africa Department of Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities
- Parliament and county governments in Kenya
- Cambodia Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports
- African Coalition for Menstrual Health Management
- Uganda Menstrual Health Management Steering Committee
- Habitat For Humanity India
There are loads of ways you can lend your support to DFG depending on your time and resources! Donations, either one-time or monthly, are always a great way to help. You could create your own fundraiser through the DFG platform or host work meetings to raise awareness for the organisation or lend your business’ support. DFG are always welcoming volunteers to join their teams.
There is even the opportunity to visit a DFG centre on your travels. There are currently 3 impact zones – red, orange and blue – which are assigned to countries reflecting the severity of period poverty and level of support needed in those areas. These sustainable zones allow DFG volunteers to work on the ground with local leaders and communities. Several of these red and orange impact zones coincide with PureBreaks destinations, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Ecuador, Malawi and Zambia.
Femme International is a non-governmental organisation, founded in 2013, dedicated to ending the taboo around menstruation in East Africa and using a sustainable, community-based approach to tackle these issues. Using education, advocacy and distribution, their goal is to ensure menstruation is no longer a barrier and that all menstruators have equal opportunities. In East Africa, period poverty has a devastating effect on menstruating people. They’re forced to miss and sometimes drop out of school, miss work and lose income, and be excluded from day-to-day activities. Femme is currently working on two big projects:
The Twaweza Program
Twaweza means ‘we can’ in Swahili because Femme knows period poverty is something that we can fix. The Program runs with schools and communities in Kenya and Tanzania. Its two main components are education and distribution.
The teams lead interactive workshops to empower girls so they can feel comfortable with their bodies and not have their education disrupted, as well as to teach them about menstrual hygiene, anatomy, and menstrual management. The Program also distributes Femme Kits, which includes a reusable menstrual product, such as a washable pad or cup, a bar of soap, small towel and bowl.