A new survey in Scotland is drawing attention to the huge number of people who have experienced “period poverty” in the country.
The Guardian reports that Women For Independence, a grassroots initiative, surveyed a thousand people who menstruate on their experience of going without period products due to finances. The report estimates that the average expenditure on period products is £13 a month, and many go without for economic reasons. Women self-reported cobbling together pads made from “toilet roll, with others citing rags, old clothes, T-shirts, socks and newspapers.”
Some said they buy products, but change infrequently, which causes health conditions like UTIs or yeast infections. Fear of smell or other discomfort caused a number of respondents to miss school, work, and social events while menstruating. The aim of the survey was to bring to light the shame and stigma associated with being on your period and in poverty, and perhaps bring people out of their isolation. WFI is pushing a campaign called #FreePeriodScotland, which is demanding legislators make tampons and pads available for free.
The US also has a period problem; while some states are working on legislation that would provide products in schools and prisons, there are still millions of people living in poverty who cannot afford them. WIC program and food stamps do not cover menstrual products, which hits many marginalized communities hard. In 2017, the HuffPost reported on how indigenous children miss school when they’re on their period. Undomiciled people have both a lack of access to supplies, and to safe and sanitary locations to use them.
Period products are still treated as a luxury item, though they’re an aspect of everyday healthcare for a significant portion of the population. In 2014, the United Nations declared menstrual hygiene a human rights issue, pointing to world-wide stigmatization of a normal human bodily process. This is a general misconception that lack ofaccess to period products is only an issue in the developing world, but it is happening anywhere that people need to choose between buying tampons and paying for food. Everywhere.
In response to the new survey, Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin told the Guardian:
“It is clear from this extensive research that we have reached a pivotal moment in addressing the issue of period poverty. Women should not have to make the choice between putting dinner on the table and providing sanitary products for themselves and their daughters.”
Martin has been working with Aberdeenshire East MSP, Gillian Martin, on legislation that would introduce a universal system to period product distribution in the country; a solution that seems like a no brainer, yet far out of reach in the US.