Breaking the Silence on Period Poverty: International Day of the Girl 2023
Globally, it is estimated that 500 million women and girls do not have what they need to manage their periods. Lack of access to menstrual products and education can negatively impact mental health, perpetuate stigmas, hinder education and reinforce cultural practices.
Days for Girls International (DfG) is proud to shed light on this issue as we celebrate International Day of the Girl in collaboration with Project Everyone.
DfG envisions a world where periods never stand in the way of gender equality. We work to eliminate stigma and limitations tied to menstruation. By removing these barriers, we open doors for all those who menstruate to pursue opportunities and achieve their goals.
Without access to available, safe, affordable period products – and safe and convenient facilities with water and soap – people with periods may experience the following in their lifetime:
- Health challenges – Infections and unmanaged menstrual pain due to a lack of menstrual supplies and health education.
- Stigmatisation and shame – Stigmatisation and shame that can lead to isolation, depression, abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation and even suicide.
- School and work absenteeism – Challenges like absenteeism, wage loss, and difficulty focusing or performing can occur.
In the US, nearly one in five girls miss school due to a lack of period products. One in 10 girls in Africa miss school because they do not have access to menstrual products, or because there are not safe, private toilets to use at school. In South Sudan, 57 percent of adolescent girls reported staying home during menstruation because of the lack of private changing rooms in school.
In some parts of the world, the situation is more dire.
- In Western Nepal, the cultural practice of Chhaupadi banishes menstruating women and girls to cow sheds, mud huts or open fields during their period – exposing them to life-threatening elements and causing unbearable shame. This extreme form of discrimination is deeply rooted in misconceptions of menstruation as impure, unhealthy and a harbinger of bad luck (passed down through generations).
- In Kenya, 65% of women and girls cannot afford sanitary pads and as a result, many girls are coerced into transactional sex for access. This dynamic places women and girls at risk for early/unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and interpartner violence.
It is important that those who menstruate have access to menstrual tools to help them consistently and sustainably manage their menstruation with health and dignity.
DfG’s holistic approach includes:
- Production and distribution of high quality, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable, DfG washable menstrual pad kits;
- Delivery of comprehensive, timely and age-appropriate menstrual health education to both women and girls, and men and boys who are key allies for change;
- Conducting advocacy to local and national leaders to improve menstrual health policies and programs.
As you celebrate International Day of the Girl, we invite you to support organisations like Days for Girls by sharing this article with your friends, donating, or advocating for supportive menstrual health environments in your community. Please visit daysforgirls.org to learn how you can help today!
If you’d like to learn more about menstrual equity and Goal 5: Gender Equality please check out these resources:
Days for Girls Resources: There are many pathways to engage in the Menstrual Health movement from the grassroots to global. Learn more about how you can help shatter stigma and limitations for women and girls around the world.
The Days for Girls Podcast: Go behind the scenes with Days for Girls International as we interview thought leaders in international development who work to empower women and girls around the world. You’ll hear from experts in the fields of menstrual health, social entrepreneurship, and international development, as well as get inside stories from the women and girls impacted by our vital work to create menstrual equity for every girl, everywhere, period.
Period Positive Workplaces: In the mission for menstrual equity,Days for Girls, The Policy Project, Share the Dignity, Population Services International Europe, The Pad Project, and The Toilet Board Coalition partnered to create the Period Positive Workplace initiative to help organisations around the world build menstrual equity.
“The Power of Days: A Story of Resilience, Dignity, and the Fight for Women’s Equity,” by Celeste Mergens, Founder of Days for Girls International