CW: This article contains discussion of death which could be triggering to some readers.
Women, girls and people who menstruate should never face the indignity of period poverty - Monica Lennon MSP
Picture this; you're in a public toilet with no pads and a tell-tale red stain on your favourite pants. Jacket wrapped around your waist, you begin the mad dash to the closest shop. You buy pads and a bar of chocolate. Before you know it, you're back home. Feet up, Netflix on, Aunt Flo is nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
For the 500 million people across the globe experiencing period poverty, their monthly cycle is more than an inconvenience. Periods in Nepal can be fatal.
Periods in nepal
In parts of Nepal, menstruation is a cultural taboo with dangerous consequences. Communities exile their women and girls to poorly-constructed huts or cowsheds during their period. This practice is called chhaupadi. Practicing chhaupadi is believed to protect the community’s crops, livestock, and men from “impure” women.
22-year-old Gauri Kumari Bayak lost her life due to superstition and the practice of chhaupadi. Left to fend for herself against the Himalayan cold, she lit a fire inside the shed. Poor ventilation caused Ms. Bayak to die of smoke inhalation.
Her community destroyed the hut, but the taboo lives on.
What is being done?
In 2015, the United Nations launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The UN strives to make significant changes to make our planet a healthier, happier place to be. There is no specific mention of eradicating period poverty, but several SDGs tackle relevant issues. Improving poor sanitation infrastructure, access to education, and financial hardship are all on the sustainability agenda, with a target of 2030.
Alongside cultural taboos surrounding menstruation, these are some of the most pressing issues women face worldwide concerning their period. Without sanitary products, girls in Rwanda miss up to 50 school days yearly. Continually missing out on their education traps them in the poverty cycle. Meeting the SDG target will ensure a brighter future for all who menstruate.
What can we do?
There are several ways we can each make a small contribution to end period poverty.
ActionAid are running a "share a better period" campaign to provide underprivileged people with the means of overcoming period poverty. They teach how to make reusable sanitary pads to ensure girls can always access education, no matter the time of the month. ActionAid also work with rural communities that practice chhaupadi to advocate for women like Gauri Kumari Bayak. Period poverty is on the rise in the UK, with 1 in 8 struggling to afford sanitary products. Consider donating pads or tampons to your local food bank to help those in need. It's an unwritten rule that if asked for a pad or tampon, we share with our fellow women. Let’s all band together to ensure no one is left stranded without access to safe and sanitary periods.