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Period Poverty & Homelessness

By: Zoe Solomon

 

At any given moment, about 1.8 billion women are of reproductive age. That means that at any given moment, 1.8 billion women could, in theory, be on their periods(UNICEF). That’s a huge number!  A number that big is worth talking about... especially as it relates to housing and food security. 

 

Some quick facts about menstruation:

  • On average, a woman menstruates for ~7 years in her lifetime (UNICEF)
  • Often, girls don’t know what is going on at the time of their first periods. Why? Periods are not talked about enough!
  • There is lots of fear and stigma surrounding periods, despite them  being a healthy, normal part of human biology (UNICEF)

 

Although approximately half of the world’s population menstruate at one point or another, the needs of girls, women, and people who menstruate are exceptionally overlooked. Many lack the products and infrastructure they need to properly engage in Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). 

 

What is Menstrual Hygiene Management? 

MHM is achieved when women are able to manage menses with dignity, safety and comfort. This includes having access to period products, proper washrooms, knowledge about reproductive systems and about period management, and generally being able to manage menses freely without social sanctions. (DOI)

 

What is period poverty? 

Period poverty is a situation in which someone who is menstruating is unable to afford products such as pads, tampons, or liners which can help them manage menstrual bleeding. (UMICH) Many consider period poverty both a public health crisis, and a human rights violation

 

So, what is the link between period poverty, homelessness, and food security? 

First of all, homeless populations are disproportionately affected by period poverty. This poverty comes in the form of the inability to purchase period products. But, it also comes in the form of other barriers to access. That’s access to pain management medications, toilets to swap out menstrual products (and avoid medical implications such as Toxic Shock Syndrome); running water, or showers, to manage personal hygiene and cleanliness. 

 

Moreover, period poverty can perpetuate cyclones of poverty… enter the link between food insecurity and periods. “Do I want to buy a meal or buy menstrual products?” This is a decision about 217,000 American women may be forced to make on any given night (Teen Vogue). No one should have to make this type of choice. Let’s act now to give our women and girls a chance to live in not only comfort-- but also dignity. 

 

Recap:

  • About half of the global population menstruates at some point in their lives 
  • Menstruation needs of girls and women are far from adequately met, and this is especially true for homeless populations 
  • Period Poverty faced by the homeless is a public health concern, breaches human rights and inhibits human dignity
  • We have the power to bring periods to center stage, to break the stigma, and to help decision-makers help all people who menstruate escape period poverty!

 

Quote to include if space allows:

 "I really wish that people understood that while donating clothes and other hygiene products is needed and greatly appreciated, pads, tampons, and liners are some of the most expensive products women face. It becomes a burden and a strain." - Taylor (Teen Vogue Article) 

 

To start a period product donation drive for unhoused people living in shelters, click the "Donation Drive" button below.

 

 

 

CITATIONS

FAST FACTS: Nine things you didn’t know about menstruation. (2017). UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/fast-facts-nine-things-you-didnt-know-about-menstruation 


 Sommer, M., Hirsch, J. S., Nathanson, C., & Parker, R. G. (2015). Comfortably, Safely, and Without Shame: Defining Menstrual Hygiene Management as a Public Health Issue. American journal of public health, 105(7), 1302–1311. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302525 


Changing the cycle: Period poverty as a public health crisis. (2020). https://sph.umich.edu/pursuit/2020posts/period-poverty.html 


McNamara, B. (2017). What it’s like to get your period when you’re experiencing homelessness. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/homelessness-and-periods