Period poverty is a term that only started popping up in these last few years, however, it has played a vital part in the oppression of girls and women for many years but was just never paid attention to due to the stigma that exists around the topic of menstruation as well as internalized misogyny.
The term period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. In as much as the main cause of period poverty is financial instability there is a lot more that contributes to it such as the stigma I mentioned above as well as periods being seen as too much of a taboo to speak about in communities making it harder for those who don’t have the access to sanitary products to seek help
Menstruation has been painted out as unclean and embarrassing all around the world. Unbelievable myths were drawn up to control women under the guise of their menstrual cycle in both traditional, cultural and religious settings. These myths created surrounding menstruation have evidently hindered women and girls from living their normal lives and taking part in numerous activities during their cycle due to the fact that they are seen as impure during this time.
It is estimated that 60% of girls and women are affected by period poverty in Zimbabwe’s rural communities. Girls miss a substantial number of days of school a year which automatically puts them behind their male counterparts. Most of these girls use the most unhygienic alternatives such as using cloth, leaves and cow dung. These alternatives leave the young ladies vulnerable to infections and often their local clinics don’t have the capacity to treat these.
The girl child has had to fight due to the stigmatized biological function that she has no power over. UNESCO states that 1 in 10 girls in Southern Africa will miss school during their period due to lack of sanitary products and eventually drop out, immediately putting young women at a disadvantage and hindering them from getting an education to better their life which is perpetuating a cycle of women depending on men. This as well contributing to the higher numbers of men that hold senior positions in the work place compared to women.
The effects of period poverty are carried out even into the work setting of young women’s lives. In an article senior reporter Evidence Chenjerai wrote “ARE MYTHS ABOUT MENSURATION PUSHING SOME WOMEN OUT OF ZIMBABWE’S MINING INDUSTRY” for the Global press journal, brought to light some of the myths about women’s periods that are being used to oppress women in the work place. The article was very shocking seeing as a certain woman’s very own workers did not want her to visit while they were working as they claimed that If she came while she was on her period the gold they were mining would disappear. It is also widely believed that menstrual blood is used in witchcraft
Change is possible if we work together as a community to eradicate the stigma that lurks around the topic of menstruation. We can achieve this by having open conversations including every member of the society that will enable better understanding when it comes to the topic of periods. Having the boy child understand, from an early age, that periods are normal and not embarrassing at all. These talks aimed at educating the society will fix the social side of period poverty however the finical side needs more work. The prices of pads are through the sky in shops seeing as most brands are imported. I believe it’s time as a country that we become self-sufficient in the production of pads in order to make them affordable
“While a woman sheds the blood of life each moon at menstruation, men can only shed the blood of death through warfare” - KATHA POLLIT
To all the young ladies reading this article there’s nothing unclean or embarrassing about your cycle and never let the community convince you otherwise. Embrace your biological make up.
In celebration of the International Menstrual Health Day, we say let’s create a world where no woman or girl is held back because they menstruate by 2030