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Period Poverty: What You Need to Know

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rice chapter.

Imagine going through your menstrual cycle without access to tampons, pads, ibuprofen, or even a roof over your head.

I think most of us who menstruate can agree that periods suck. What with the bleeding, the cramping, the mood swings, and the sheer mess of it all, your “time of the month” probably isn’t an event you eagerly await. However, for some women, having a period is more than just a monthly annoyance—it’s a considerable financial strain as well. Globally, women are more likely than men to live in poverty, and when you must choose between feeding your family and purchasing menstrual products, there isn’t really much of a choice to be made. Aside from its very real psychological effects, period poverty poses a serious health threat to women. According to Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity and vice president for development at NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, “Reusing products or using tampons and pads for too long—or not using them at all—leads to higher rates of infection and other conditions for which patients are likely to require medical intervention.”

So what can you personally do to help combat period poverty? The answer is twofold. Firstly, petition your representatives to make feminine hygiene products exempt from sales tax, and to include these products in the provisions of governmental programs designed to help low-income families, such as Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, i.e. food stamps) and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children). Secondly, if you’re able, donate money or menstrual supplies to organizations in your area. #Happy Period, Support the Girls, PERIOD. The Menstrual Movement, and the Houston Area Women’s Center all accept donations of some form. Food pantries also often have an urgent need for more menstrual products.

Image Source: Perri Tomkiewicz for Harper’s Bazaar

Ellie is a Political Science and Policy Studies double major at Rice University, with a minor in Politics, Law and Social Thought. She spent the spring of 2017 studying/interning in London, and hopes to return to England for grad school. Academically, Ellie's passion lies in evaluating policies that further the causes of gender equality, LGBT rights, and access to satisfactory healthcare, specifically as it pertains to women's health and mental health. She also loves feminist memoirs, eighteenth-century history, old bookstores, and new places. She's continuously inspired by the many strong females in her life, and is an unequivocal proponent of women supporting women.