Helping to Overcome Period Poverty in Africa

Period poverty affects millions worldwide, with over 500 million lacking access to menstrual supplies and sanitation facilities. This leads to missed school days for approximately one in ten girls in low-income countries. Girls' educations are hindered, causing increased dropouts, limited job prospects, lower wages, and perpetuating poverty. Learn more about what IRFF UK does to address the issue of period poverty and support those affected by it
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Girls receiving pads in Uganda
Suffer From Period Poverty Worldwide
1 in 10
Girls in Africa Miss School Due To Periods
Cannot Afford Menstrual Products in Africa

What is Period Poverty?

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You Cannot Manage Your Period
Period poverty is a global issue created by the lack of access to sanitary facilities, menstrual products, education and waste management. By not having access to these necessities, girls’ and women’s quality of life is affected by challenging them physically, emotionally and mentally.
You Cannot Get An Education Or Go To Work
Period poverty prevents girls from attending school, women from attending work, it isolates them, and shames them. The stigma around periods further exacerbates the problem by preventing conversations about it.
You Remain Trapped In Poverty
The World Bank Organization explains that poverty is the vulnerability of not having a job, fear for the future, and living one day at a time: it is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom. Period poverty is just that, poverty, and it is a worldwide crisis.”
Period Poverty disproportionately affects people who cannot afford or access sanitary products, leading to various social, health, and economic consequences.
Many girls and women may miss school or work during their menstrual cycles due to the unavailability of menstrual hygiene products. This can result in a significant disruption to their education and professional development, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.
Two female hands handing over a period pad
500 Million Worldwide

Who does Period Poverty affect?

Girls & Women in Developing nations suffer most
Affecting over 500 million women and girls world-wide, those living in poverty are particularly susceptible to period poverty’s impact. In developing nations, nearly three-quarters of the population lacks proper hand washing facilities at home, making managing menstruation safely and with dignity a challenge for many women and young girls.
Conflict and Natural Disasters affect Period Poverty
Those who live in conflict-affected regions or places dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters face additional hurdles in managing their menstruation. These circumstances exacerbate the difficulties associated with period poverty, further emphasising the need to address economic constraints as well as the environmental and humanitarian challenges in ensuring menstrual hygiene for all.
Handing out period pads
Physical, Mental, Social

The Consequences of Period Poverty

Period Poverty Poses Severe Challenges
Period poverty poses significant physical, mental and social challenges for millions of women and girls around the world. The consequences extend beyond personal well-being to educational and professional realms. Many women miss work, and girls skip school due to period poverty,limiting their opportunities for growth and development.
Girls Avoid School During Menstruation
Studies, such as one in Uganda, reveal that girls avoid attending school during their periods to escape teasing by classmates. As such the associated stigma in certain societies contributes to feelings of shame and embarrassment, negatively impacting their mental well-being.
Girls Get Discriminated Because Of Their Periods
This stigmitasation leads women and girls to experience discrimination. They become financially disadvantaged, meaning they lose agency and autonomy. This can lead to child marriages because economic factors are driving decision making, and can be further exploited as a means of control in domestic violence situations.

The Physical Risks of Period Poverty

According to UNICEF, inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products can heighten the physical health risks associated with period poverty, potentially leading to the following health issues:

Bacterial Infections

Not cleaning or changing menstrual products regularly can cause bacterial infections such as urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Yeast Infections

Prolonged use of damp or unclean menstrual products can encourage the growth of yeast, leading to yeast infections.

Rashes & Itching

Poor quality or unsanitary menstrual products can cause skin irritation, rashes, itching, and discomfort.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Infections resulting from poor menstrual hygiene can travel into the reproductive organs causing PID, which can lead to fertility issues if left untreated.
“Menstrual blood is the only source of blood that is not traumatically induced. Yet in modern society, this is the most hidden blood, the one so rarely spoken of and almost never seen, except privately by women.”
American Poet
Now Is The Time To Act

Ending Period Poverty

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Period Poverty Leads To More Child Marriages
The long-term impact is profound, as period poverty hinders women from realising their full potential. As stated by Global Citizen, girls deprived of education due to these challenges are more vulnerable to child marriages, early pregnancies, domestic violence, and malnourishment. Additionally, the stigma surrounding menstruation perpetuates negative mental-health, fostering a sense of embarrassment about a natural biological process, further disempowering women. Addressing period poverty is crucial not only for individual well-being but also for breaking cycles of inequality and empowering women to reach their fullest potential.
“When we talk about period poverty we automatically assume we mean not being able to afford sanitary towels or tampons, however, it is so much more of a bigger picture… It's about how we talk about periods, period education, being honest about the impact of menstruation and not penalising menstruating people.”
Kate Blakemore
Cheshire Women’s Collaboration

Cultural Shame

Period poverty is rooted in cultural shame surrounding menstruation and a lack of resources. World-wide, menstruation is stigmatised, with taboos preventing women and girls from engaging in essential activities like touching water, cooking, participating in religious ceremonies, or community events. These taboos, identified in a UNFPA report, contribute to gender-based discrimination, reinforcing the notion that menstruating individuals are deemed unclean.

Financial Barrier

A critical factor in period poverty is the financial barrier, as many individuals struggle to afford menstrual supplies. This economic challenge forces people to make difficult choices between purchasing food and essential menstrual products. The intersection of cultural stigma and economic constraints creates a complex web of barriers, perpetuating period poverty and its detrimental impact on women's education, work, and overall well-being. Addressing these root causes requires comprehensive efforts to dismantle cultural taboos, improve access to resources, and promote menstrual equity.
How Are We Helping

What is IRFF UK doing to end Period Poverty?

Eradicating Period Poverty Helps Gender Equality
Addressing period poverty is imperative for promoting gender equality and ensuring that individuals, regardless of their economic status, can manage menstruation with dignity. Several countries worldwide have taken progressive steps by providing free period products, emphasising the importance of governments in supporting menstrual equity.
Can We Make Menstrual Products Free or More Affordable?
Ending period poverty involves implementing initiatives and policies that provide affordable and free menstrual products, promote menstrual health education, and challenge the societal stigma surrounding menstruation. However, inspiring government or authority cooperation is a challenge still to be overcome.
“You can send women to the Moon or Mars later. First, provide sanitary pads to them.”
Social entrepreneur/ ‘padman’

Breaking stigmas

IRFF UK feel it is crucial for menstruators to feel proud and confident in thriving within their societies. Education plays a vital role in this, with initiatives providing comprehensive menstrual hygiene education for both girls and boys from an early age. Breaking stigmas and fostering healthy habits contribute to creating a more inclusive and understanding society.

Easy Assessibility

Achieving menstrual equity really requires a holistic approach, encompassing access to sanitary products, proper sanitation facilities, handwashing facilities, sanitation and hygiene education, and effective waste management. Normalising menstruation and dismantling taboos surrounding the natural process are essential components of this effort. Particularly in regions where historical challenges have hindered progress, policies that ensure the easy accessibility of menstrual products, sanitation, and hygiene facilities is vital.
“Women and girls have human rights, and they have periods. One should not defeat the other.”
WASH United

Breaking the cycle of
missed opportunity

IRFF UK provides young women with free menstrual products, enabling them to stay in school, breaking the cycle of missed opportunities and contributing to their overall empowerment. Combining education, policy advocacy, and practical support, societies can work towards eliminating period poverty and fostering a more equitable and inclusive environment for all individuals.

Find out more about how IRFF is fighting Period Poverty

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