Plan International USA (Plan) and Always have joined forces to address the period poverty crisis faced by women and girls in a new campaign.
Fear and shame are often the emotions most closely associated with menstruation. This has, unfortunately, led to the development of related issues that have yet to be properly addressed. The campaign is devised to raise awareness of these and work towards their betterment
The campaign is spurred on by a report that delves into the multi-faceted issue of menstruation. The report, entitled Menstrual Health & Hygiene “It’s Time to Talk”, details the various insecurities that come along with periods.
Based on 11 United States based surveys from 2014-2020, the report reveals a multitude of harsh realities for women and girls. Specifically, period stigma and poverty cause the leading issues faced by them when they experience their period.
Report Exposes Unnecessary Secrecy and Shame Around Periods
The findings of the report show that although 54% of women from ages 18 to 40 believe that periods should be openly discussed, only 36% of them actually talk about it. The survey concluded that people are more comfortable addressing topics like sex, STD’s, politics and so on rather than periods.
85% of women and girls expressed that they would be more open to discussing their experience if they heard others engaging in similar conversation. The cultural environment does not permit for such discussion. Around 1 in 3 people who menstruate reported being bullied or otherwise shamed for it.
Related to this problem is the lack of education surrounding periods. 1 in 4 young people were found to not understand why women and girls have periods or how to cope with them if they got them.
Education Fails Menstrual Health
In US schools in 2017, sexual and reproductive health education was scarce. Only 18 states required that it be taught. It was allowable in 17 states, and not addressed at all in 15 states. Worse, even when it is provided, young people still reported that they did not fully understand this topic.
Nearly 3 in 4 women and girls believe that boys and men should be involved in discussions about periods, and the lack of universal education about it proves that they are right to say this.
Period Poverty Makes Women and Girls Feel Unsafe
Period poverty describes the issue of women and girls not having access to feminine hygiene products. With the impact of Covid-19, 1 in 4 women reported being concerned about being able to continue to access feminine hygiene products.
The report also proposes the actions that will be integral in their vision for ending period stigma and poverty by 2030.
Raising Awareness and Funding Menstrual Health
First and foremost, they suggest that raising awareness in society about discussions of periods will have a positive impact in overcoming these struggles. Focusing on young people who are already being more open in discussing periods is part of this solution.
Additionally, restructuring sex education in schools to include a comprehensive look at menstrual health and hygeine, for all students regardless of gender. Studies show that mothers are the most trusted source of information about periods, so further equipping them to impart this knowledge onto their children will assist in this educational goal as well.
More than half of all U.S citizens believe that the government should address the fact that women and girls experience period poverty. Addressing this issue and working towards governmental regulations that provide menstrual hygiene products will help to solve this problem.
Get Involved with the Campaign
When all of these layers of period disparities come together, it leads to women and girls becoming disconnected from their own bodies. 2 in 5 young women and girls reported that they did not feel prepared for their first period.
Plan and Always are utilizing this campaign to work towards that plan of ending period stigma and poverty. On their website, they have a few options for those looking to get involved in the campaign. The front page of the site has a section devoted to submitted period stories. Underneath it is a form to submit your own period story to join the activists raising awareness via their personal experiences.
They also have a source for joining fundraising endeavors in the campaign. They have resources to start your own fundraiser through them, and to donate to the fundraisers started by others.
The page also links to a quiz about periods, where you can brush up on your knowledge.
President and CEO of Plan International USA, Tessie San Martin, had this to say about the report; “It is hard to believe how much shame and secrecy there is worldwide around something as normal as periods. Menstruation should be a subject that is spoken about openly and intentionally to help educate and empower young people. Yet, in this report, we saw that the lingering taboos around periods compromise a young person’s confidence during puberty, a formative time in their lives.”
Readers of this article can follow the hyperlinks throughout to assist with the campaign. By sharing your story and continuing the work of fundraising will be a massive help to Plan and Always in achieving their goal by 2030.