What is Period Poverty Anyway?

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Period Poverty is one of the most taboo, yet problematic global problems women face today.  1.2 billion women have limited access to hygiene products, and many are using alternatives such as dirty cloth, ashes, or even cow dung.  Period poverty is perhaps one of the most undiscussed hygiene problems of our time.

Since becoming involved with PMSBOX, I have become consumed with researching the topic of “period poverty.” As I have read through articles, and looked for statistics, I started thinking about my own experiences as a young single mom.

Sabrina Paul

I had my daughter when I was 19-years-old. When I found out I was pregnant, I was scared and broke. I started working full-time but did not make much money.  This often meant giving up my own necessities, such as maxi-pads for a day or so, just to get to the next paycheck. I am not sure how many times I had to ask my sister if I could borrow some tampons, or how many times my mom stopped by with pads to help me out. I remember how humiliating it was to ask for help, especially for something as personal as feminine hygiene products.

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I am beyond thankful that I had their support; I know that I was lucky to have my mom and sister there to help me. Millions of women around the world do not have the support I had. Millions do not have access to these products at all. PMSBOX strives to support these women who are in need.  While they may not have a family to support them, they have women like the PMSBOX team who want to make a positive difference in their lives.

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When we think of the word “poverty,” most of us think of homelessness, lack of electricity, food, or safe water. Women’s hygiene is often overlooked, or simply not spoken of. This, along with the shame and negativity that surrounds periods in general, makes period poverty a much less discussed topic. Remember when you were in high school and you would hide a pad in your pocket in case you had to use it in middle of the day? Or worrying whether or not your pad was showing through your pants? Now imagine that while also living in impoverished conditions. Can you imagine not even knowing what a maxi-pad looks like, or using an piece of cloth or some cow dung to absorb blood?

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We want to talk about our periods, and support women who do not have access to these personal hygiene products. Here are some facts that motivate us to do what we do. 

·         In the US, women spend approximately $70-$120 a year on hygiene products. The average age for a girl to get her first period is 12.3 years old.  The average age for menopause is 51.  This means women can spend up to $5,000 on sanitary products alone in their lifetime.

·         Lack of education and high illiteracy rates in developing countries can lead to major health issues such as infections, toxic shock syndrome, and even cervical cancer.

·         In India, girls miss an average of 1-2 days of school per month due to period discomfort, fear of staining clothes, and lack of access to proper disposal tools.

·         88% of females reuse cloth during menstruation due to lack of access/inability to afford sanitary products.

·         There are documented cases of girls as young as the age of 14 trading sex for sanitary products. In Kenya one in four girls does not associate menstruation with fertility. This lack of education puts these young women at risk for major health issues.

THIS is why PMSBOX exists. We hope that you will join PMSBOX in our mission to help 10 million women in need.

Sabrina Paul