What is period poverty? Inequalities related to menstruation. That includes the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, etc.
Who does it affect? Students, low-income and homeless women and girls, transgender and non-binary individuals, and the imprisoned all struggle with period poverty. Girls with special needs and disabilities are also disproportionately affected.
What are the main causes?
- Improper education― we often stigmatize menstruation.
- Economic barriers―menstrual products are costly (and in some cases taxed).
Why is it a problem? Period poverty increases physical health risks, such as reproductive and urinary tract infections, when the proper resources are not easily accessible. This causes women to turn to unsafe substitutes. Period poverty also widens the educational and economic gap.
Periods and planet
- In North America, about 20 billion tampons and pads go to landfills every year, and the non-organic items take at least 500 to 800 years to decompose.
- Disposable menstrual products are the fifth most common type of waste washing up on beaches, according to a report by the European Commission
- The manufacturing of disposable menstrual hygiene products generates a total carbon footprint of about 15 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually―the equivalent of burning about 35 million barrels of oil, according to the United Nations Environmental Program
How can we promote sustainable periods?
- Choose reusable menstrual products (e.g., period proof underwear, menstrual cup, and reusable tampon applicators and pads)
- Choose cotton products and support transparent brands if disposable products are necessary
- Demand that corporations make plastic-free sanitary products
Bottom line By normalizing menstruation and destroying taboos around the natural process, we can prioritize menstrual equity policy that makes sustainable menstrual products and sanitation available for all.
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