Period poverty refers to the struggle faced by countless women to afford tools of menstrual health and hygiene due to economic vulnerability, lack of awareness and poor hygiene standards. In a country like India, any discussion around periods is considered a taboo. This creates a culture of silence around the topic, leading to a lot of myths and misconceptions, which end up causing great harm to women. Our country has the second highest menstruating population in the world, amounting to almost
35 crores. But it is a sad reality that less than 20% of them have access to sanitary pads. This leaves almost 28 crore women without the essential requirements to manage their basic bodily functions. They often resort to old-fashioned and unhygienic methods of period management like old clothes, paper and sand. These lead to UTIs and debilitating health as well as many reproductive issues.
Millions of girls drop out of school every year when they start menstruating. Or they end up missing a few days of school every month. Girls and women are not allowed to enter places of worship when they are menstruating, as they are considered ‘impure’. This is also the reason they are not allowed to enter the kitchen or touch food when they are on their periods. Menstruation is a basic bodily function of 50% of the population of the world and these practices are an indication of the appalling lack of awareness about it. Period poverty is a major roadblock in the development of a country. After all, a country can’t progress if 50% of its population is held back every month.
The only way to eradicate period poverty and bridge the gap is by raising awareness about menstrual health and hygiene and providing women access to the same. The taboo surrounding the subject must be abolished completely. This can only be done by educating men and women alike on the subject. It is important for men to be a part of the conversation since it is a point to consider as to why exactly is the topic a taboo? Even if it is hushed tones, women talk to each other about periods. It is only when it comes to men that the conversation goes silent. When men are informed about the actual biological process and significance of periods, it makes them more empathetic to the women in their lives, and creates a platform for gender equity in society.
Another way is for the more privileged to have these discussions wherever and whenever they can. For example, one can talk to their house help to enquire about their means of period management and provide them with better alternatives if required.
A very important way to eradicate period poverty is to donate sanitary napkins as much as you can. Price is one of the root causes of the issue and you can either introduce affordable, high quality period products to the ones in need or you can donate the same.
With these practices, slowly but steadily, period poverty can eventually disappear from our society. Period health and hygiene is a part of the right to life and it must be addressed as such. It is only then that we can see a future where women are in control of their own lives and are leading the country forward on the path of progress.