“Poverty is nothing but a symptom far from our bed”

Menstruation is normal. However, not everyone always has enough money to buy tampons, menstrual cups, or sanitary pads. The so-called menopause also occurs in our regions, and more often than you think. “The fact that poor menstruation remains a problem should set all alarm bells ringing.”

nFollowing a survey by Plan International UK, menstrual poverty suddenly rose to the top of the agenda in 2017. The news that up to 10 per cent of girls in the UK have already experienced poor periods has caused quite a stir.

And, by the way, in the rest of Europe as well, where in the following years various studies came to similar results. In many places, girls sometimes miss school because they can’t afford period products.

The question was the same everywhere: How can a large percentage of women in our society not have the means to purchase hygiene products for something that is actually the most natural thing in the world?

daily struggle

The focus on PMS may be new, but of course it wasn’t the same problem.

We’ve known for decades that in many parts of the world, access to health products, such as menstrual products, is a daily struggle that seems endless.

In Bangladesh, for example, up to 64 percent of women use unhealthy alternatives. About 1 in 3 girls stay home from school during their period because they have no way to buy products.

Improvising menstrual products is not only unhealthy, but it also leads to social isolation.

A U-Report survey showed that 31 percent of women in Congo said lack of money to purchase products is the biggest problem during menstruation.

The Plan International UK study revealed that lack of access to menstrual products is not just a phenomenon in countries thousands of miles away. It happens in our society too, and more often than you think.

Free period products

Caritas Flanders has also seen similar signs in our country. A 2019 study found that 1 in 8 girls aged 12-25 in Flanders sometimes did not have the financial means to purchase menstrual products. School truancy also occurs with us for this reason, albeit to a lesser extent.

So the problem is known, but solutions are still often absent. This is while a more structural solution is available. Just look at Scotland. There they decided in 2020 to give menstrual products free of charge to everyone who needs them. Totally free.

Everyone has the right to free essential products in order to function normally.

Many regions in Australia are toying with this idea as well, after a large-scale study showed that 1 in 5 women should improvise when using products. reason? High financial costs of sanitary pads and tampons.

In the Australian Capital Territory, a bill has been introduced for this. Improvising menstrual products is not only unhealthy, but it also leads to social isolation.

Several women also testified to this in the research conducted by Caritas Flanden. Not having any products at their disposal simply means for them and many others that they have to stay home on their own.

global solidarity

Making period products free, of course, involves huge costs. Nobody denies it, but every country should ask itself whether it is normal for a woman to menstruate. There is no way to do anything about it. Everyone has the right to free essential products to function in a natural way.

Poverty is just a symptom far from our bed.

The fact that there are children all over the world who cannot go to school because they are menstruating should ring alarm bells.

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Unsplash / Gabrielle R (Public Domain)

It should make us realize that it is urgent to change that. At least by providing schools with free products, as is already happening in different parts of the world.

Global solidarity will also be needed in this story. High-income countries should not sit back and watch while the population, including in the south, complains about the lack of suitable products and the resources to buy them.

The tools are available to invest in those countries. Many organizations are active in this field. They are interested in the phenomenon and devote themselves daily to the search for period products. Let’s listen to their cries for help, because menstrual poverty is nothing but an elusive symptom.

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