We are wrapping up our campaign and have spent the final week talking about period poverty. This is a topic we are well acquainted with, as it was the impetus for our Dignity Kits project. The facts on period poverty tell us that this lived experience is much closer to home than many of us realize. It’s right here in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam, and yes, in our neighborhood.
In combating period poverty, there are a number of obstacles we face:
Stigma and shame
Periods are a very normal part of life, but the stigma around menstrual bleeding is ever-present. This stigma leads to shame on the part of those who menstruate, meaning that we are not having the necessary conversations about access to products and the needs of people who menstruate. Stigma has made period poverty an ‘invisible’ problem, and this needs to be undone.
Eradicating period poverty means ending interwoven forms of oppression. Period poverty is linked to issues such as intergenerational inequality, gendered exploitation and strict border regimes. The challenges faced by those who struggle with period poverty – who often lack papers and secure housing – are complex, leading to compounded forms of oppression.
Multinationals profit enormously from monthly menstruation, and their pricing models directly contribute to period poverty. State-imposed costs such as the ‘tampon tax’ exacerbate these effects, with sanitary products being taxed in many countries as ‘non-essential goods.’ Profit must not come before people.
That being said, there is good news. People are waking up and standing up against these oppressive systems. Countries are abolishing the ‘tampon tax’ – just this year Britain became the latest one. Countries are also acknowledging the urgent need for access to period products. New Zealand has committed to providing free period products at schools for the coming free years, and Scotland has become the first country to make period products free for all.
These examples serve as beacons of hope for a future where period poverty is fully eradicated, and where organizations like ours no longer need to exist. Our eyes have been opened, now it’s time to act.