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Beyond the Red: Fighting Period Poverty Together

POSTED March 7, 2024

Beyond the Red: Fighting Period Poverty Together

By Kizzy Ufumwen Oladeinde, Sr. Communications Officer, Canada

Girls sitting in a group together

Imagine being excluded from family functions like weddings, not being able to attend school or much worse – prevented from entering the common areas in your home just because you are on your period.  Hard for women in Canada to imagine, right? Yet this is the reality for thousands of young girls and women who experience social exclusion, shame and the violation of their human rights, simply because of their menstrual cycle.

“On my period days, I was not allowed to enter the kitchen or the pooja (worship) room in our house. It made me feel lonely and I was restricted from doing good things. However, I’m grateful to IRCDS and Children Believe for providing awareness. Now, I don’t feel neglected during my period and my family has started allowing me to go to all places, breaking free from negative social norms.” says Keerthana, 17, of India”

With over 1.8 billion people across the world menstruating each month[1], many communities in lower-income countries still see menstruation as dirty, unclean or shameful. This perception fuels the restrictions women and girls face during their periods. Although some of these are cultural or social, many girls and women impose these restrictions on themselves because they don’t have access to proper health education, cannot afford sanitary products like pads or tampons and are unable to manage the associated needs.

These factors lead to what is known as Period Poverty, characterized by the lack of access to safe, affordable menstrual products and clean washrooms to manage their periods. Managing periods should be a normal part of life for girls, but without the right supplies, it can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and even lead to health challenges. In rural and underserved communities, many young girls use unsanitary materials like rags or leaves during their period, which makes them miss school due to fear of leaks or embarrassment. It also sometimes results in health risks due to poor menstrual hygiene practices.

According to the United Nations, millions of girls do not have safe sanitation at school and are forced to stay home and miss school during their period. Millions of young girls and other menstruators suffer from menstrual poverty and have no access to affordable sanitation products.

As the world recognizes the 2024 International Women’s Day, with the theme #InspireInclusion, there is a global call for a world free of discrimination where all women and girls have equal rights and opportunities. At Children Believe we continue to take steps to address inequalities that exist in menstrual health and ways we can improve health and education outcomes for young girls in the communities where we work.

Putting solutions into action

Menstrual Education: Research shows that many adolescent girls lack the necessary knowledge and preparation for menstruation, which can leave them feeling excluded and ashamed, leading to misconceptions[2]. Through local partners, Children Believe implements comprehensive menstrual health education programs in schools and communities, dispelling myths and taboos surrounding menstruation and covering topics such as menstrual hygiene, reproductive health and gender equality, which leads to girls having the knowledge they need to manage their periods safely and confidently.

Girls’ Clubs: In India, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Ethiopia, we’ve created peer groups in schools and communities where adolescent girls learn about reproductive and menstrual health. They are also trained to make their own reusable hand-made sanitary pads, called dignity kits, to address period poverty. This has reduced barriers to education due to missed school during menstruation.

Reusable hand-made sanitary pads made by Girls’ Club members Photo: Reusable hand-made sanitary pads made by Girls’ Club members

Community Engagement: Gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, and poverty can restrict girls during their periods. To address this, we work with local communities, leaders and parents in conversations about menstruation, to foster a supportive environment in the homes and community for girls during their periods.

Dignity kits (in cash and/or vouchers): We provide dignity kits to women and girls in Internally Displaced People camps in Burkina Faso. These women and girls have been forced out of their homes and communities due to conflict and are often unable to afford menstrual products. We aim to promote safety and dignity and address period poverty by providing them with the necessary supplies.

WASH/Sanitation facilities:In many lower-income countries, schools often lack proper water and washrooms for girls and female teachers to manage their periods, which results in missed school days[3]. To address this, Children Believe builds toilet facilities for schools and provides clean water to communities to enable girls to manage their periods with dignity.

You can help

In all, these are just a few ways we work to #InspireInclusion and help girls empower themselves during their periods.  Remember, periods are part of life and you can be part of the solution to create a world where period power helps girls reach their full potential! Learn more about our work and how your support can improve menstrual health for girls here.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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