Period poverty means a lack of access to period products due to affordability issues. Using sanitary products is a big part of menstrual health and hygiene, but when it comes to a product of choice, 85% of women prefer using sanitary napkins. It is important to note that 8.34% of women use menstrual cups, 4.9% pick tampons, and 1.25 % choose cloth pads.
Why do women use a specific product?
It’s because there’s an easy to use and ease of access. Globally, people talk about the pros and cons of using the one-period product over the other.
Menstrual cups are reusable and great for the environment. Saving up to 2600 tampons or pads per user, but some can face it difficult to use with comfort.
Sanitary napkins are easy to access and dependable, but they can cause bacterial growth and badly affect the environment. It also contains chemicals. Tampons give you more freedom of movement but can also give you toxic shock syndrome.
Many women face problems with insertion, pain and infection while using tampons or menstrual cups. Menstrual cups may cost more initially but are cheaper in the long run. Privilege has a huge part to play in this. While menstrual cups can be ordered online, they are mostly available in big cities limiting access to many women. They are also relevant to Indian society and have not been talked about. In total, 432 million pads are produced annually.
The National Family Health Survey states that only 57% of all Indian women use sanitary napkins, which drops to 48.5% in rural areas. This means over 50% of women who live in villages still don’t have access to basic sanitary products. Women who have regular access to period products say that they buy their sanitary products directly from the store as it is nothing to be ashamed of.
Some women still can’t buy their sanitary products themselves because they get scared of the chemists who wrap the sanitary pads in a 500 layer black plastic bag as it is something to be ashamed of.
The price of sanitary products has also been a big debate, with the government imposing a tax on them. Sanitary products should be provided free to the people who don’t earn much because sanitary pads are the basic need of a woman. Unfortunately, cloth pads are very unhygienic and can cause several deadly diseases.
In India, at least 50% of women can’t buy it on the MRP. This is a period of poverty. It isn’t just an Indian thing, and it’s all over the globe. Kenya was the first country in the world to end taxes on sanitary products. Many girls skipped school just because they didn’t have sanitary pads.
In the USA, 35 states impose a tax on sanitary products, and with close to 42 million women living in poverty and homeless across the country, access becomes a huge issue.
With no access to period hygiene products, girls miss school and women who are already in the low paying jobs or daily wage labourers end up being a ‘Monetary Hit’. The shame for girls becomes twofold. First, they don’t just hide the fact that they get periods but also that they can’t buy it at an affordable price.
The conversations about menstruation need to happen so that we can see the real, measurable change by those in power. Regardless of caste or class, no one should be left with no support to deal with the worry and discomfort that comes with five days of bleeding.
Periods should come with positivity, and every woman should feel proud to bleed.