Period Poverty

GFA World’s Work to End Period Poverty

The term period poverty refers to inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education. Around the world, periods are often associated with shame and stigma, so girls miss school while menstruating due to a lack of access to products and the cultural and social stigma they face.[1] In fact, as many as two out of three girls avoid school because they have not received proper schooling about their period.[2] Missing school then perpetuates poverty as girls miss necessary days in class. Education is the best way to end poverty.[3]

But what is period poverty, really? It refers to the social, economic, political and cultural barriers to menstrual products, education and sanitation.

Globally, 500 million people lack access to necessary products and facilities. Instead, these people are forced to use rags, toilet paper or even children’s diapers.[4] Some of them have also reported using the menstrual products they did have for longer than intended. Practices like this put these women at higher risk for urogenital infections like urinary tract infections or bacterial vaginosis. It can also lead to a rare infection known as toxic shock syndrome, which is very dangerous.[5]

Period poverty affects more than physical well-being; it can make women embarrassed or ashamed of their bodies and this natural function. This can also lead to mental health problems, such as depression. They also miss school, work or other aspects of society because they lack the products they need during menstruation leading to significant economic implications. A study in Bangladesh showed that 73 percent of women there missed an average of six days of work a month.[6]

People who live in low-income countries are more likely to fall under the period poverty definition. Research from 2008 showed that in Southeast Asia, many workplaces did not provide adequate environments for menstruation hygiene.[7] For instance, a quarter of workplaces in Cambodia didn’t even have toilets. In the Philippines, women lacked the necessary facilities so they did not come to work, resulting in an estimated 13.8 million work absences in that country—1.5 million work absences in Vietnam for similar reasons. Further, access to sanitary pads varies among countries. This is especially prevalent in African countries like Kenya, where 14 percent of menstruators do not have access to pads. According to a survey by UNICEF, women use pieces of blanket, chicken feathers, old rags, newspapers or mud instead.[8] In Ethiopia, as many as 41 percent of women cannot access sanitary pads, which is true of 37% of them in Nigeria and 36 percent of women in Uganda.[9]

These period poverty statistics are disheartening, but there are several groups working to address this issue. UNICEF, Always, Lunette, Alliance for Period Supplies, Saalt, and many more are working on initiatives to help women around the world.[10][11] International governments and nonprofits are working on legislation and education programs to address the global lack of menstruation products and hygiene.

Even in the United States, people are struggling to afford period products. Thirty-five states tax menstrual products as non-essential items, meaning that women can struggle to afford them with the additional cost of the “Pink Tax” or “Tampon Tax.” People are working to petition states on this issue since they are, in fact, essential items.[12] With such big struggles in a wealthy nation, the plight of developing countries is much worse.

GFA World is among the organizations that are working with girls and women all over the globe to help with menstrual poverty. GFA provides proper sanitation facilities, healthcare and hygiene training.[13] This involves providing outdoor toilets close to people’s houses for proper waste disposal, which stops open defecation and gives women safer environments to take care of themselves. We also provide clean water through Jesus Wells and BioSand water filters, which, with some education, lead to better hygiene overall in the areas of dental health, handwashing and menstrual care.

GFA’s Child Sponsorship Program focuses on keeping kids—especially girls—in school. We offer vital assistance such as tutoring help, assistance with required school fees and the supplies that the children need to succeed,[14] and that includes making sure they can confidently sit in their classrooms without worrying about or being ashamed of menstruation. Not only that, but GFA provides income-generating gifts like sewing machines and animals that can and do lift families out of the cycle of poverty. Families and communities start businesses or sell milk and eggs, making it easier for them to buy necessities, including period products.

Please join us in this effort to address period poverty around the world. It prevents girls from going to school and women from working, which makes it even harder to escape poverty’s grip. Donating to GFA or sponsoring a child helps people and shows them God’s love as our missionaries meet these physical needs with products, toilets, clean water and education.

Learn more about what is poverty

[1] “Period Poverty.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Policy Lab. April 6, 2021.
[2] Alvarez, Alexandra. “Period Poverty.” American Medical Women’s Association. October 31, 2019.
[3] Giobetti, Olivia. “How does education affect poverty? It can help end it.” Concern Worldwide US. April 17, 2022.
[4] Geng, Caitlin. “What to Know about Period Poverty?” Medical News Today. September 16, 2021.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Tull, Kerina. “Period poverty impact on the economic empowerment of women.” University of Leeds Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development. January 23, 2019.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Geng, Caitlin. “What to Know about Period Poverty?” Medical News Today. September 16, 2021.
[10] Alvarez, Alexandra. “Period_Poverty.” American Medical Women’s Association. October 31, 2019.
[11] “Sponsor a Child with GFA World.” GFA World. Accessed November 29, 2022.
[12] Alvarez, Alexandra. “Period_Poverty.” American Medical Women’s Association. October 31, 2019.
[13] “Sponsor a Child with GFA World.” GFA World. Accessed November 29, 2022.
[14] Ibid.