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:

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

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.

The Twende Initiative

Meaning ‘let’s go’ in Swahili, Twende reflects Femme’s commitment to reach out and go to even the most remote regions. The Initiative aims to provide menstruators in this region with safe and affordable menstruation products at a community level. 

Additionally, it trains local women as sales agents for menstrual products, such as reusable pads and cups, in their communities. The Twende Initiative empowers these women financially and gives them a platform to talk about menstrual issues, share education and break down taboos.

Femme offers a range of ways for you to get involved. One-time or monthly donations can be made and companies can become corporate donors. Schools, universities, businesses and community events are great places to start fundraisers and spread awareness about Femme’s work and the importance of menstrual issues. You can also partner directly with Femme and expand their capacity to bring about sustainable change for menstruating people throughout East Africa.

Freedom4Girls

Freedom4Girls is a UK-registered charity working to support menstruating individuals by providing education, menstrual products, and supporting financially and environmentally sustainable options. They’re currently active in the UK and in East African countries, Kenya and Uganda, providing menstrual products and education on menstrual hygiene and health.

Freedom4Girls has an amazing network of volunteers who sew, assemble and distribute reusable period pad packs to their beneficiaries in both Kenya and Uganda, inspired by the work of fellow organisation, Days for Girls. These packs are made from their Leeds-based workshops and two sewing workshops in Kenya. These packs last for up to 3 years, meaning menstruating people can stay in school and work, and manage their periods with comfort and dignity. Education is another key part of Freedom4Girls’ work, especially for young people. Their workshops address the anatomical side of menstruation, such as puberty, cramps and how to manage a period hygienically, and the social side, such as deconstructing stigma and taboos.

If you would like to support Freedom4Girls you can donate money – a period pack only costs £7 to make and distribute, and just £10 will hugely help their education workshops. They also welcome donations of washable and disposable period products. If you’re good at sewing and have some time you could volunteer with one of the sewing workshops, or even host your very own!

ActionAid

As a part of their overall efforts to help women and girls worldwide tackle poverty and injustice, ActionAid is committed to ending period poverty. They are active across countries in Africa, Asia and Central America and contribute aid in humanitarian crises. In many of the world’s poorest countries, ActionAid gives training on how to make affordable and sustainable sanitary pads, allowing menstruating people to continually manage their periods with independence and dignity.

They support girls’ clubs that teach girls about their bodies, menstruation and health, and safe spaces for girls in schools where they can provide menstrual products. Local communities in Nepal are being helped to bring an end to the barbaric practice of Chhaupadi once and for all.

ActionAid also works to distribute menstrual kits during humanitarian crises to ensure menstruating people can continue to manage their periods safely and with dignity. These kits contain menstrual products, soap and clean underwear.

While some other charities welcome donations of sanitary products, ActionAid prefers not to. They try to source their products locally as it helps to stop rising costs from transport, and allows them to make sure the products they provide are appropriate for the local culture and environment.

The best way you can help ActionAid is through monetary donations that’ll enable them to continue their vital work across the globe. £3 a month can help provide menstrual kits for those who cannot afford products; £7 a month funds the workshops that teach young people how to make their own reusable pads; and £10 per month can help fund outreach initiatives to end period shaming.

Sustainable Tourism as an Economic Solution to Period Poverty

Giving our support to charities and organisations like these will make a positive difference to menstruators all across the world. Our travels are able to not only inspire us to be proactive on issues such as period poverty, but they can also positively contribute to these causes in themselves. There is also a broad correlation between areas where these organisations are active and where Pure Breaks operate due to the correlations between affluence and period poverty. By bringing sustainable tourism models to these less affluent areas, Pure Breaks enables a new form of income for these local communities, which can be put towards education, setting up new local businesses and opening up opportunities. 

Whether directly or indirectly, this all contributes to ending period poverty in such areas. Education is both a means and platform to end period stigma and teach people how to manage their periods. The increased income for people in these communities can help them access menstrual products, both for themselves and others. Women and girls can be empowered by new education and business opportunities enabled by tourism income and go on to use these positions to advocate for menstrual health and equality.

“Period poverty is something no menstruating person should have to go through, but the reality is very different. Ethical, sustainable tourism and charitable organisations are already bringing about amazing changes for people who have been forced to suffer period poverty to its worst extremes. Any kind of support will help continue this vital work and make sure menstruators can live their lives without disruption, stigma and shame. ”

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