In 2020, Scotland was the first country to nationally provide free period products in all community centers, pharmacies, youth clubs, schools, and universities. We think equitable access to menstrual products should be a given, but unfortunately, that is not the reality for over 500 million people experiencing period poverty globally (1). Period poverty is not having the socio-economic means to access affordable menstrual products, and it affects millions of people in every corner of the world.
In the United States tampons are still taxed as a luxury item in 30 states, and on top of that 16.9 million people in the U.S. are currently experiencing period poverty (2). A 2018 Reuters Health survey found that around two-thirds of low-income women in the U.S. were not able to afford period products, and more than half were faced with the decision to either buy period products or food (3).
With the recent passage of the Menstrual Equity for All Act in California, which ensured that public schools and colleges in the state provide free menstrual products, many people are reimagining what menstrual care access should look like. Equitable access to period products is lacking in the majority of public schools across the country, and only a few cities like New York City and Chicago have mandated that products are in school bathrooms (4). Although tackling period poverty is a daunting endeavor, and will require all sectors of community organizations, government, and corporations, there are ways to start addressing period poverty in your own community.
Research the policies on menstrual care in your area and what local organizations want to accomplish
For starters, it is important to do your research and find out what your community, state, or country is doing to better serve menstruators. A great place to start changing the narrative on menstrual equality is through education. The Period Talk Toolkit from Period Action, an organization dedicated to shifting the culture around period poverty, provides excellent resources to begin introducing change in your community (5).
Find out what supplies are needed
Community and nonprofit organizations play an important role in increasing equitable menstrual access. Donating pads and tampons to community centers, youth centers, or homeless shelters can directly help people affected by period poverty in your community. If you are a student (or even if you’re not), you can organize a period product drive or connect with school organizations to raise awareness about period poverty.
Normalizing having periods will help change the culture around periods, and increase the cultural acceptance of menstruating. Periods are natural, and no one should have to worry about finding products when menstruating! Talk about periods with your family, friends, or get involved with local organizations that are working towards normalizing menstruation.
Organizations and Activists to follow (on Instagram)
Bloody Good Period, @bloodygoodperiod
Candice Chirwa, @candice_chirwa
Operation Period, @operationperiod
Period Equity, @periodequity
The Period Movement, @periodmovement
The Period Place, @theperiodplace
As community members, activists, menstruators, educators, friends, and human beings, we have the power to help end period poverty. Even things that may feel small can ignite change globally. This series on period poverty will continue to talk about the various ways we can get involved in the movement.
We are always learning and expanding at Viv, so please share any ideas or resources you may have to fight period poverty in the comments.