Period poverty, or the inability to afford menstrual products, is a serious problem, especially in developing countries, a problem that girls and women face every month, and the focus of Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is celebrated every year on May 28.
“I’m happy to come to work here because I get to meet and work with other people,” said Ms. Fetti, who operates a special machine to put fasteners on each pad. “This place makes me happy because I can forget about my disability while working here.”
The strong, durable pads she produces help women like her with mobility impairments who have trouble going to the toilet. After working there for a year, Ms Fatty hopes to continue. Although his disability brings many challenges and he struggled to make ends meet for a long time, his life has improved since joining the program.
Keeping girls in school
In The Gambia, Africa’s smallest country, chronic poverty is widespread throughout the country, but it hits rural areas harder, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Some girls miss about five days of school every month because of menstrual classes and lack of sanitation.
Girls are afraid to dye their clothes and become targets of intimidation or violence, the agency notes. As a result, gender inequality is expanding. boys will have an advantage because they attend school more often than girls, who are more likely to drop out.
To address this issue, UNFPA has developed a project in Basse, in the Upper River region of the country, to produce recyclable sanitary pads. These pads are distributed to schools and hospitals in local communities.
The agency uses this as an opportunity to talk to young girls about body autonomy and sexual and reproductive health to alleviate period shame and stigma.
Empowering young women
The program is also a means of empowering young women in the community, as it provides them with secure employment and the opportunity to learn new skills.
Since 2014, Menstrual Hygiene Day has been celebrated on the 28th day of the fifth month of the year, because the average menstrual cycle is 28 days, and humans have an average of five days per month.
According to UNHCR, poor menstrual health and hygiene undermines basic rights, including the right to work and go to school, for women, girls and menstruating people.
It also deepens social and economic inequalities, the agency said. In addition, inadequate resources for menstrual management, as well as patterns of exclusion and shame, undermine human dignity. Gender inequality, extreme poverty, humanitarian crises and harmful traditions can reinforce deprivation and stigma.
With that in mind, this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day theme is “Making Menstruation Commonplace by 2030,” said Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the UNFPA.
“A girl’s first period should be a joyful fact of life, a sign of decent maturation,” he said. “She should have access to everything she needs to understand and care for her body and attend school without stigma or shame.”
The day brings together governments, non-profit organizations, the private sector and individuals to promote good menstrual health and hygiene for all around the world. The event also aims to break the silence, raise awareness around menstrual issues and engage decision makers to take action for better menstrual health and hygiene.
Learn more about what UNFPA is doing to end chronic poverty here.
Eliminating seasonal poverty
UNFPA has four broad approaches to promoting and improving menstrual health worldwide:
- Supplies and safe bathrooms. In 2017, 484,000 dignity kits containing pads, soap and underwear were distributed in 18 countries affected by humanitarian emergencies. UNHCR is also helping to improve the safety of displaced persons’ camps by distributing flashlights and installing solar lights in bathing areas. Programs to promote menstrual health information and skill building include teaching girls to make reusable menstrual pads or raising awareness about menstrual cups.
- Improving education and information. Through its youth programs and comprehensive sexuality education efforts, UNFPA helps both boys and girls understand that menstruation is healthy and normal.
- Support to national health systems. efforts include promoting menstrual health and treating girls and women with menstrual disorders. The agency also acquires reproductive health products that may be useful in the treatment of menstrual disorders.
- Gathering data and evidence on menstrual health and its relationship to global development; A long-neglected research topic, UNFPA-supported surveys provide important insight into girls’ and women’s knowledge about their menstrual cycle, health and access to sanitation.