What Is Period Poverty And Why Is It Important?

 

Edited by: Sanjana Hira

 

          The world often associates India with a variety of cultures and traditions. Colours, festivals and a diverse atmosphere are just a few things that are equated with this rather large country. However, with these same traditions comes a variety of superstitions, some of which are followed even today. In a typical Indian household, the word ‘period’ itself is a taboo. It is often mentioned in a disgusted and shameful tone. Why? Isn't it rather normal? By the age of 13, most girls begin their menstrual cycles – it is a very usual and normal part of life. Sometimes, these cultural  stereotypes lead to rather harsh outcomes. The shame and disgust surrounding the topic is one thing but when it leads to the physical deterioration of women’s health, that's when you know things need to take a turn for the better. 71% of India’s women have no knowledge about menstrual health. It is an overlooked topic because people refuse to talk about it. When there is refusal to talk about topics concerning reproductive health, it may at times lead to an outburst of health issues concerning the female’s reproductive cycle simply because the correct care isn't taken during the menstrual cycle.

 

          These problems often arise in the poorer areas of India and a term called period poverty is often associated with situations like these. So what exactly is period poverty? An absence of sanitary products for girls during their cycles is termed as period poverty. They lack the basic necessities which allow them to remain healthy during their cycle and prevent infectious diseases. Period poverty occurs not only because of reasons mentioned above, like the taboo surrounding periods itself, but multiple other reasons that risk the lives of half of India’s population.

A study shows that 70% of reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Over the years, Bollywood movies like Padman have tried to show the way women, especially in poor, rural areas, cope with menstruation. They often use rags and cloths instead of tampons and pads simply because they lack accessibility to these products. However, the usage of rags is unhygienic since they may be prone to germs, thus causing infections. Women turn to using cloths and rags simply because they cannot afford basics like pads since 70 million people in India live under the poverty line. The number is magnanimous and half of these people are women. Their menstrual health falls last on their list of concerns around money. Hence, they don't find it a suitable investment to buy sanitary products, thus leading to period poverty.

 

What can be done to eradicate period poverty? Education matters. In third world countries like India, education plays a key role in addressing issues like such. It is because topics like sex, menstrual hygiene and reproductive health are not talked about, that they always remain neglected. If children and parents become aware about periods and the risks surrounding poor care, they are bound to pay more attention to it.

          However, despite education playing a key role, the government has an even bigger role to play when it comes to the eradication of period poverty. In 2018, the government branded pads and tampons as ‘luxury items’ which is harsh, to say the least, as BBC states that 4 out of 5 women already do not have access to pads and tampons. Hence, labelling them luxury goods decreases the chances of ending period poverty. With pressure from various charities, NGOs and signatures on petitions, the government found no option but to scrap this tax, which is a big step in allowing girls to reach their true potential without anything holding them back. This just goes to show that a big change can be made from something as small as signing a petition as this essentially helps young girls feel empowered and not feel like they are disadvantaged in the way that stereotypes portray them to be.

 

Sources:

https://borgenproject.org/top-five-facts-about-period-poverty-in-india/ 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-44912742