Why does period poverty matter? Or has it ever occurred to you why period poverty matters? If you were to ask me why it matters, I would say period poverty has different forms like any other kind of poverty, and it can lead to emotional, physical, and mental effects on individuals. Almost half of the world’s population menstruates.

But period poverty has not been given the urgency it deserves compared to other public health issues like HIV, Ebola, and malaria. Period poverty is an equally important public health issue because lack of information and access to menstrual products negatively impacts women and girls, harming their mental well-being and self-esteem, and even leading to thoughts of self-harm.

Menstruation is a gendered, cross-cutting issue. It affects half of the global population. In Tanzania alone, it impacts up to 19 million women and girls. Factors such as socioeconomic status, culture, social support, and access to necessary resources (like water, soap, bathroom facilities, period products, and pain medications) affect how people experience menstruation. For rural, marginalized, and low-income communities, periods make existing issues worse.

Adults in Tanzania report spending approximately $1.85 per period for disposable pads, which is unaffordable. According to UNESCO statistics, more than 71.4% of women turn to unhygienic alternatives from fabrics to mattress stuffing, dried grass, or cow dung wrapped in gauze. This cost remains similar even in rural areas, where the availability of commercial products becomes an additional burden.

Here are some significant reasons why addressing period poverty is urgently needed:

  • Health management: Lack of access to menstrual health products and knowledge can lead to unhygienic practices during menstruation. Insufficient menstrual health management can cause discomfort and embarrassment for individuals who cannot manage their periods properly. It can also increase the risks of infections, including urinary tract infections (UTI) and reproductive tract infections.
  • Human rights and gender equality: Menstruation is a natural biological process experienced by approximately half of the world’s population. Denying individuals access to adequate menstrual products and related health care services is a violation of their human rights, including the rights to health, dignity, and equality. Addressing period poverty is crucial for promoting gender equality and ensuring that everyone can live a life free from discrimination and stigma.

It is not enough to speak up about period poverty as an individual or a small group. This is where organizations like Femme International come in. As a menstrual, sexual, and reproductive health nonprofit, Femme International’s mission has been to address the issue through education, engaging communities in conversation, improving access to reusable menstrual products, and conducting research. We are breaking taboos and barriers and addressing the unique needs of menstruators in under-resourced communities. For nearly a decade, we have been working in East Africa—in Kenya and Tanzania—to implement our programs and evaluate their impact. We have reached more than 18,000 people, including women, girls, boys, and men.

Read the full article about period poverty by Sia Fred Towo at GlobalGiving.