Under her wooden house on Newton [palen, red.]In a working-class neighborhood outside Paramaribo, Geeta Boydho folds her clean clothes with her three teenage daughters. It’s Saturday morning and after a big day Sippy Busy, Tropical rain, the yard is partly covered with water, but the sun is starting to shine again. “Put that pile of pants in the closet and Romana, are you going to put the rest of the clothes in the washer?” Boedhoe tells her daughters. She walks into the kitchen and unloads the groceries she picked up earlier that morning at a Chinese supermarket down the road. “Almost everything is getting more expensive again,” she grumbles. Chicken, eggs, sanitary napkins.
As a single mother with three daughters at home, Boedhoe (30) says she spends $600 Suriname per month on menstrual products. Converted to less than 30 euros, but for little pay and four women in the house, she takes up the largest portion of her shopping budget each month: a third – sometimes half – of her monthly salary is spent on it.
“I don’t have a steady job. Every now and then I clean for families in Paramaribo. Depending on the number of days I work, I earn about S$1,500 a month, sometimes 2,000 (transferred €90, editor). But we definitely need five, sometimes six packs of sanitary towels. Tampons are absolutely expensive,” she says.
Period products are very expensive in Suriname, because everything is imported. Due to the economic crisis, inflation has risen by more than 60 percent in the past year. Because sanitary napkins are bought with hard currency, women have to pay more and more Suriname dollars for a set of sanitary napkins. Hence the choice between buying food and paying rent. Or buy sanitary towels that are getting too expensive,” Boedhoe sighs. In the past few days, I’ve been going to several supermarkets to no avail, looking for cheaper sanitary pads.
Around the house, daughter Romana Narain, 11, wipes the last puddles of rainwater, while sister Rushaja, 10, puts clean stacks of towels and sheets in the closet. During the week they go to school by bus – another extra expense – but if there is no money for sanitary towels and they are menstruating, Mother Geeta sometimes keeps them at home away from school. “Then we miss exams and get left behind,” says 12-year-old eldest daughter Rishana as she falters in a brightly colored hammock after the family. “It happens with more girls in our class. If they sometimes stay away from school, you already know, ‘What a monthly turnaround.’ It would be better if free sanitary pads were made available in schools,” she says.
When there is no money to buy sanitary pads and they are menstruating, Mother Geeta sometimes keeps her daughters at home away from school
It’s called menstrual poverty when sharp choices have to be made: buy sanitary towels and tampons, or spend a little money on the most basic of life’s necessities: food. According to the World Bank, it is a growing problem and there are currently an estimated 500 million women and girls worldwide who either do not have monthly funds or do not have enough money to buy sanitary pads.
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Health consultant Judith Ferber discovered last year that menstrual poverty was increasing in Suriname. “I’ve been working with women and girls in the country for years and have been involved in many social projects. They asked me if I didn’t know a cheap way to get sanitary pads. Then I started investigating and found out that more and more women could no longer afford it. This has consequences: Women don’t go to Menstruating work, they don’t go to school, they look for alternative methods. Sometimes they use rags or toilet paper or even newspaper for their daughters, and they come up with all kinds of things.”
Fireber started a single mother project in Suriname, and went looking for companies and individuals who would like to donate sanitary towels. Women and girls can register for the project for a nominal amount of Surinamese 10 dollars, and receive a monthly package containing menstrual materials for a month. When I started, a few months ago, sixty women applied. Now there are more than 2,000 women registered,” says Ferber.
I rented a room this weekend on the grounds of the Kennedy Foundation, an institution for the deaf and hard of hearing. In a swampy backyard, a group of women had already gathered at the bottom of the stairs of a large building. They are of different ages and ethnic backgrounds: it is clear here that menstrual poverty is not limited to one population group. “We are not here to beg,” Ferber said fiercely to the women. “In fact, we are protesting, because sanitary napkins are too expensive for us in Suriname.” The women nodded confidently. Two boys, about twenty years old, carry large boxes full of sanitary towels on the stairs. “Can you add that table and we’ll put the parcel there, it’ll be occupied today,” Fayber said to one of the boys.
Donations come from different directions. “From the women who dispense with it, from the companies, but also from the men, because they also see how expensive sanitary pads are causing problems for their wives and daughters. Recently, we even received a huge donation from the Speaker of Parliament in the National Assembly, says Ferber. Also trying through Her project is to make tangible the vision of the World Health Organization, which affirms that women in every culture are the backbone of their environment.When women make it, it affects their entire environment, especially their children.Fierber: “If women don’t have to worry about sanitary pads, they Her worries are less and she won’t have to stay home from school or work.”
An additional problem with poor menstruation in Suriname is the big taboo in which the topic of menstruation lies. „In our house, Verbier says, ‘We weren’t allowed to cook for my parents when we were menstruating. And that is the case with many families. There is an idea in Suriname that you would then be unclean as a girl or a woman. For some women it is more dangerous,’ They like to touch as little as possible during menstruation. Because of this taboo, there is less talk about sanitary pads and how important they are for girls and women. So we also need to make this a topic of discussion.”
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Providing free sanitary pads is not a sustainable solution. There are the first ideas to set up their own factory for the production of sanitary towels, for example in cooperation with the Caribbean, because this is a problem throughout the region. Sanitary towels and washable menstrual cups can offer a solution, but they are not uncommon in Suriname yet.
Geeta Boedhoe and her daughters recently signed up for the Single Mother Project. At the end of the afternoon, when the strain of nearly a hundred women had shrunk a little, she reported being with her daughters, and at last left with three packs of sanitary napkins. “It gives relief for this month, but it would be better if there was a really sustainable solution.”