Being an adult can be pretty pricey. Being a woman of reproductive age can be even pricier. Between rent, utilities, car payments, and more, extra funds for food and basic living needs are limited — let alone setting aside a chunk of cash each month for feminine products like tampons or pads. Not being able to do so has been coined period poverty and it affects more women in the U.S. and around the world than you would think. According to an op-ed in the New York Times, over 40 million women in the U.S. that live in poverty are affected by “a lack of access to menstrual hygiene care” and “minimal access to safe sanitary spaces like toilets and showers.”
The cost of feminine hygiene products such as tampons or pads can rack up to almost $100 a year — a hefty price to pay for mother nature’s monthly package. Lack of access to these products can affect a young woman’s attendance at school or work, and impact their progress in the workforce, in education, or their economic status. According to Bustle, “in the UK, particularly, the relatively high cost of hygienic products means too many students simply stay home when they’re bleeding, rather than risking their peers’ running commentary when the blood spots start to show up.” Not only can this be demoralizing to a young woman, but for the homeless or low-income community, it perpetuates a cycle of homelessness or poverty in all facets of life. A new study based in the UK also suggests that women who have experienced period poverty are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression later in life.
According to the Independent UK, 39% of women who experienced period poverty now suffer from anxiety or depression, after years of low self-confidence or being victimized by bullies. Aileen Nathan, spokesperson for Always UK, which conducted the survey of 1,000 women said, “Period poverty is a real issue among women today. But it’s only in recent years that we are seeing how the effects of period poverty at a young age can have far-reaching effects through a woman’s whole life.” Though period poverty hits the homeless community and low-income families the most, they are not alone. Incarcerated women are also affected — most prisons only allot women a certain amount of pads each month, and usually that’s not enough.
Luckily, there are now many campaigns and initiatives working to encourage schools, workplaces, and prisons to provide feminine products for women each month. Despite growing advocacy, family planning resources, contraceptives and feminine products in the U.S. and in developing countries remain generally inaccessible to low-income women. Play your part and learn more about PRJKT RUBY’s TakeCare, GiveCare campaign, which works to give women in the developing world access to the female care they need.