Every person across the globe has been affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in some way. From canceling plans, working at home, unemployment, distance learning, constant testing- people have experienced it all. With all of the continuous changes, the inequities and challenges faced by low-income communities have also intensified, including period poverty. Managing menstrual cycles has become much more difficult due to essential product shortages, financial strain, and increased stigma.
With 1 in 5 girls missing school due to lack of menstrual products, period poverty is no joke. To recap, period poverty is an often overlooked issue of inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products and education, leading to unhygienic practices that can create many health concerns, such as infections. Due to the pandemic, humanitarian organization Plan International surveyed health professionals in 30 countries, and 73% reported having restricted access to menstrual products due to mass shortages and disruptions in the supply chain. These products were desperately needed during the pandemic but are not considered essential, leading to many menstruators struggling to get them.
In the same survey, 68% of menstruators have reported difficulties finding clean facilities to change, clean, and dispose of those products. Not only that, in another survey conducted by WASH United, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), and UNICEF, approximately 47% of people who menstruate have found it more challenging to access menstrual supplies. As a result, many had to resort to rags, paper towels, and reused pads. Urogenital infections, such as urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis, skin irritation, vaginal itching, and white or green discharge, became a common outcome due to the lack of access to proper period products. Furthermore, these unhygienic alternatives have led to elevated anxiety, depression, and distress scores across many.
The Covid-19 crisis has also led to a mass economic crisis among many companies, with period-product-producing companies as no exception. As inflation and the demand for menstrual products grew higher, those under period poverty are forced to make a choice between buying tampons or providing other necessities for their families, such as food and clothes. In addition, people have been struggling to make money due to their inability to work and increased job losses, making obtaining menstrual products lots more difficult than it should be. The lack of access and affordability of menstrual products infringe on fundamental human rights and is just as important as other essential products but fails to be put on the same level.
Alongside the lack of accessibility to period products, economic pressure has also increased stigma and shame among menstruators. Covid-19 resulted in period poverty being pushed onto the side to focus on other things, bringing back traditional practices that look down upon this monthly cycle. It is considered “unclean,” when it has always been a biologically natural and healthy process. The stigma makes it much more challenging to seek out proper education on how to properly manage it and prevents people from talking about it.
Until period poverty is recognized on a government level, menstruators under this issue will have to rely on donations and non-profit organizations.
“Menstrual equity is not a choice or a luxury. It is a human right, and a health right. Furthermore, in the current fight against COVID-19, periods do not wait for pandemics. Today, with over 40 million Americans out of work due to the pandemic, the socioeconomic and health challenges of individuals facing period poverty is further enhanced and heightened. It is more important than ever to ensure these menstrual products can be obtained by everybody who needs them,” U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) said in May.
About the Author:
Hey everyone! My name is Cynthia Liu and I am currently a junior at Irvington Highschool. As a communications officer at SAPP, I hope to create a change in my community by fighting against period poverty and educating others on the topic. I’m so excited to work alongside this incredible team this year!