Period Products: A Basic Necessity, Not a Luxury, for Women in Poverty

Period poverty is a significant and often overlooked issue affecting millions of women and girls worldwide. Defined as the inability to access or afford menstrual hygiene products, period poverty perpetuates inequality and poses serious health risks for those affected, particularly women living in poverty. In this article, we'll explore the pressing need to recognize period products as a basic necessity rather than a luxury, especially for women facing economic hardship.


Period poverty is a multifaceted issue that intersects with socioeconomic factors, cultural stigmas, and systemic inequalities. For women and girls living in poverty, the inability to access menstrual hygiene products can have far-reaching consequences on their health, education, and overall well-being. Without access to pads, tampons, or menstrual cups, women are forced to resort to unsafe and unhygienic alternatives, such as rags, newspaper, or even leaves, putting them at risk of infections and reproductive health complications.


Lack of access to period products compromises women's health and hygiene, leading to a range of physical and psychological consequences. Menstrual hygiene products are essential for maintaining cleanliness during menstruation, preventing infections, and ensuring menstrual health. Without access to these products, women may experience discomfort, embarrassment, and shame, impacting their self-esteem and quality of life. Moreover, untreated menstrual hygiene-related infections can lead to more severe health complications, further exacerbating the cycle of poverty and inequality.


Several barriers contribute to the pervasive issue of period poverty, including economic constraints, cultural taboos, and inadequate policies and infrastructure. For women living in poverty, the high cost of menstrual hygiene products often forces them to prioritize other essential needs, such as food, housing, or healthcare, over period products. Additionally, cultural stigma surrounding menstruation perpetuates shame and silence, making it difficult for women to seek help or advocate for their needs. Moreover, inadequate menstrual hygiene management facilities, such as lack of private toilets or disposal bins, further exacerbate the challenges faced by women in poverty.


Addressing period poverty requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the root causes and systemic inequalities perpetuating the issue. Governments, policymakers, and organizations must prioritize menstrual equity as a fundamental human right and implement policies and programs to ensure universal access to menstrual hygiene products. This includes providing free or subsidized period products in schools, workplaces, and public spaces, as well as investing in menstrual education and advocacy initiatives to dismantle cultural taboos and stigma.

Community-based organizations and grassroots initiatives also play a crucial role in addressing period poverty at the local level. By providing free menstrual hygiene products, conducting outreach and education programs, and advocating for policy change, organizations like A Step to Freedom or Free From Hardship, empower women and girls to manage their periods with dignity and confidence. Additionally, businesses and corporations can contribute to the fight against period poverty by donating products, funding initiatives, or implementing menstrual leave policies to support their employees.


To truly address period poverty, we must challenge the prevailing narrative that period products are a luxury rather than a basic necessity. Menstruation is a natural and essential aspect of women's health, and access to menstrual hygiene products is a basic human right. By reframing the conversation and advocating for menstrual equity, we can break down barriers, reduce stigma, and ensure that all women and girls have the resources they need to manage their periods safely and with dignity.

Period poverty is a pressing issue that demands urgent attention and action from policymakers, organizations, and individuals alike. By recognizing period products as a basic necessity and prioritizing menstrual equity, we can empower women and girls to lead healthy, dignified lives free from the constraints of poverty and inequality. Together, let's work towards a future where access to menstrual hygiene products is universal and menstruation is no longer a barrier to women's health and well-being.