The average woman will approximately menstruate for 3,000 days or more than 8 years in her lifetime. Periods are a monthly reality and a normal occurrence for most women and girls. However, for those who live in poverty, having a period can be stressful and shameful. Many girls and women in South Africa and around the world suffer from period poverty.
Period Poverty in South Africa
Period poverty can be defined as women and girls lacking access to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities, waste management or a combination of these. This topic is particularly important, as many women or girls in South Africa miss school or work every month due to being on their period. Up to 7 million girls do not have access to or can not afford sanitary products, and around 30% of South African girls do not attend school every month due to their period.
As a result, whilst girls and women are menstruating they resort to using other unhygienic products such as old rags, socks, clothes and newspapers. These can cause other health problems and infections. Despite the unaffordability, lack of accessibility and lack of hygiene, there are also a lot of stigmas surrounding periods which further exacerbate all of these issues. For example, girls going to school are worried about leaks and being teased and bullied.
How can we fight period poverty?
The most important thing to realise is that periods are not going away and are a recurring reality for most women and girls. However, addressing an issue such as period poverty is complicated as it is both an economic and social issue. But there are two main areas that are key:
- Education. Education amongst the youth, particularly on periods and hygiene is key. It should be incorporated into education systems and be taught to both girls and boys. It should also be spoken about more openly, as this is essential to break stigmas and misconceptions surrounding periods.
- Policy changes and government intervention. Many governments, including South Africa, have cut all taxes on menstrual products, ultimately lowering the cost. However, proper hygiene facilities, waste management and other vital necessities also need to be in place as girls and women need these services to manage their periods safely. Unfortunately, the lack of facilities is a reality for many in South Africa. Otherwise, alternative solutions need to be promoted and implemented.
- * These two areas need to be addressed and can ultimately aid in the fight against period poverty. Luckily there are many great organisations in South Africa that are helping in these areas.
Organisations in South Africa
Some of the amazing organisations which are helping in the fight against period poverty by educating, donating and coming up with innovations include The CORA Project, MENstruation Foundation and Safepad. Safepad, in particular, is a great product that is a reusable sanitary pad that has innovative antimicrobial technology. This technology enables the pad to disinfect itself while in use and also enables it to be washed in contaminated water if necessary. One box includes 4 pads which can last one person approximately 4-5 years.
Why Safepads is a good alternative?
Some of the main menstrual products that are available in South Africa include sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, reusable sanitary pads and Safepad. Looking at the definition of period poverty, 2 points stand out in the context of South Africa. These include hygiene facilities and waste management. This is where Safepad is a better alternative than the other menstrual products. Although menstrual products such as sanitary pads and tampons do not have VAT anymore and are now cheaper they still need to be disposed of. However, many girls and women who experience period poverty do not have access to efficient or any waste management services and thus struggle to dispose of such items.
Menstrual cups are a good alternative as they are reusable and do not need to be disposed but they need to be cleaned in clean water, which is not always available. This is again where Safepad is a great alternative. It does not need to be washed in clean water due to its innovative antimicrobial technology, it disinfects itself while in use and it only needs to be disposed of in the longer term. Safepad is a great product for women and girls who experience period poverty.
What can you do?
To help in this fight the best way is to support organisations such as The CORA Project, MENstruation Foundation and Safepad, support menstrual products that aid in the fight against period poverty, donate menstrual products and educate yourself and be aware of such issues.
This women’s month, we are collaborating with Safepad for their “This Is Not A Sock” campaign. Get involved in any way you can and help empower girls and women who shouldn’t be disadvantaged for something that is unavoidable every single month.