Most people haven’t heard of the concept of period poverty. But, if you are the proud owner of a uterus, you might have experienced period poverty in some form or other. Period poverty is the term used to describe two phenomena: one is simple- some people who menstruate are simply unable to afford sanitary products. The other is the lack of access to sanitary products. This may be due to lack of funding in schools and other public areas, or may be due to sanitary products being overlooked as an unnecessary expense. If you get your period, you know sanitary products are very much necessary. Sometimes your period comes early, and you want to dash into the nearest bathroom, find the tampon dispenser, and be done with it. But, often times, the tampon dispenser isn’t stocked. Sometimes, there isn’t even a dispenser. People say that it its each individual’s responsibility to make sure that they are prepared for their cycle, but I see sanitary products as a necessity, that shouldn’t have to be bought or hard to find at all.
People say, “a box of pads are pretty cheap,” or “it’s only a quarter or two to get a tampon in the bathroom,” but all these expenses add up, especially when you are of low income. Periods occur monthly, and each person’s cycle is completely different. Based on the person, their flow may be heavier, or lighter, affecting how many sanitary products they need, thus influencing how much money is spent. The truth is, the people who are unable to afford to buy groceries simply cannot afford sanitary products. It may seem like such a small price, but when you are counting every penny to make ends meet, one dollar can make a huge difference.
You can get condoms for free, so I don’t see why sanitary products should be an\y different. Periods are messy and painful, and it’s absolutely nerve wracking to get it unexpectedly and not have access to anything. It’s such a hassle to go to the restroom, so no tampons, and ask every girl if they have anything, just to hear, “no, sorry,” over and over. So many young teenagers, including me, have had the experience of having to use toilet paper, or whatever they could find, in order to avoid embarrassment and discomfort. Many students have reported complaining of period bleeding or pains to their teachers, and being dismissed. All this could be solved if pads and tampons were seen as an urgent necessity. As 50% of the world goes through this every month, I think having more accessibility to sanitary products is a definite must.
So, what can we do? If you are in a position to do so, it can be helpful to gather a few people and do this project that I implemented at my university. Using my own resources and going door to door to collect donations as well, I made small care packages of tampons, pads, panty liners, and diva cups and distributed them around campus restrooms. You can also talk to your school, work, or people in charge of your local public recreational spaces to possibly emphasize the need for sanitary products. And of course, never stop working with Planned Parenthood to distribute more resources, and make them more available.