Dionne Newman: Are we really willing to leave women too poor for a period?


Writer and student Dionne Newman says women should never have to face the indignity of period poverty

IN this day and age feminine hygiene products are not hard to come by. They line the shelves of every supermarket, corner store and pharmacy around the world. 

They come in an array of brands, sizes and uses so that women everywhere can find something suitable to the lifestyle they lead. There are tampons, sanitary towels, menstrual cups and even reusable underwear so that women can carry on throughout their period without disrupting usual day-to-day activities. 

These products are not only used for hygiene purposes but are available so that no woman has to lose her dignity due to something that only nature can control. Sadly not all women have the luxury of accessing these. Thousands of woman are forced to struggle silently every month when it comes to their period, hoping that somehow they can find a way to keep a little dignity. This is not because these products are not available to them, it is because they cannot afford to buy them.

Read more – STUC backs campaign to end ‘period poverty’ for women

Menstrual products are often seen as a luxury. A market. They come with a price that some women cannot afford to pay. These products are taxed and advertised as a money-making scheme and the women out there who cannot afford to pay for them are left with a heavier price to pay.

These women have to find other ways of controlling their natural flow so that they can still carry on with day-to-day activities. There are women who have to use scrunched up toilet paper, wrapped in their underwear just so they do not bleed through. 

There are young girls missing days of school every month, losing out on their education, just because their parents cannot afford to pay for these ‘luxuries’ while providing everything else for their children. There are women in third world countries who have to bleed freely while they continue trying to provide for their own families all because these products are luxuries.

Periods are not a luxury. They are messy, emotional and can be downright painful. Sanitary products do not stop periods from being any of these things, but they do provide one thing. They provide a human right. They allow dignity. They take away the embarrassment of bleeding through clothes, They allow a sense of relief and cleanliness and they provide a safety net to all women.

Sanitary products allow dignity. They take away the embarrassment of bleeding through clothes, They allow a sense of relief and cleanliness and they provide a safety net to all women.

Every month millions of women suffer from symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and cramping to their skin breaking out to mood swings – after all they go through, do you not think they deserve to at least keep their dignity?

Taxes won’t be taken off of sanitary products any time soon but something can be done to help those who cannot afford these necessities. A grant could be introduced that allows women under the average financial threshold to get free sanitary supplies from their health centre, supermarket or pharmacy.

Donations could be made to schools to ensure that all children get the education they need rather than taking days off because their bodies are made to menstruate. Homeless shelters and foodbanks could hand out supplies to homeless and poor women, either via donations or from government grants.

Condoms, contraceptive medication and lubricants are handed out for free by the NHS because they are an important part of sexual health, without a doubt, but sanitary products are just as important for the sexual health and wellbeing of our women and girls.

Read more – Sturgeon: Sanitary products during menstruation are not a luxury but a necessity

We cannot aim to look after just one section of sexual health, we need to consider all issues, including menstruation, and if the government won’t grant it then maybe we need to fix the problem ourselves. 

So the next time you donate to foodbanks or charities, please consider these women and drop off a box of tampons, too.

You may just help a woman retain her dignity.

Picture courtesy of 小草

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