Generally, people think women’s basic needs are limited to food, clothes, hair dressing and fancier things like make up, Brazilian hair or high heels. Women who cannot afford those are considered poor. Food poverty or clothing poverty are sort of “noble poverty” since it is not that shameful to talk about them. Being poor is not the most prestigious situation, but when it comes to some types of poverty, help is willingly given, from individuals to top ranking international organizations.
But there are types of poverty that are difficult to tackle for many reasons. It is the case with period poverty, especially within societies where periods are considered taboo, filthy or unclean from a religious point of view. In a nutshell, “Period poverty” refers to having a lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints
In many African countries, Cameroon is no exception, women are raised to hide their menses. Always. No one should see. No one should know. Menses are “not good”, so most of the time people do not care about how the issue is dealt with from woman to woman, if they can afford to “take care” of the situation. That is the main reason why period poverty is still unknown by the majority, especially men. So today we want you to know what women facing period poverty are going through, and why you, as a man/boy or a woman/girl, should help. So here are 5 reasons why you should join the fight against period poverty.
1 Menses are a central point in women’s lives
This is not just because it is directly related to birth giving, but because it is an important part of their monthly lives. And it starts very early, around 11 or 12 years old. At least once a month, 12 times a year, they have to go through it for 4 to 6 days: it may come with sickness, it may affect their mood and it may affect their ability to move around because of overflow. This is heavy on their shoulders, so it coming with the additional stress of not being able to “take care of it” can sometimes be emotionally unbearable. Imagine a girl in school or a woman at the office not being able to focus on her studies or work because she is afraid to be stained be laughed at. Shame always affect dignity and self-esteem.
2 Not being a victim of period poverty does not mean it does not exist
Most of the time we think what does not affect us does matter. Girls and women having access to pads and tampons cannot imagine what those who lack access to them go through since it is natural and easy for them to use protections. Boys and men do not have periods so they simply do not care, reason why they are often those laughing at girls and women staining their clothes. Empathy is key here not to able to help, but to be willing to help.
3 It is more than blood coming out of a body, it is a matter of health
During their periods, women are vulnerable when it comes to health. The vagina is susceptible to infections, it is quite vulnerable and open to bacteria and viruses. Protections have to be clean and should be changed at least every 4 to 6 hours. Periods can sometimes be a trigger to Bacteria Vaginosis. It can spread from the vagina up into the uterus and fallopian tubes. This kind of infection is called pelvic inflammatory disease and can, if left untreated, cause damage to the tubes. It can prevent sperm from reaching the egg and cause infertility. Cervical cancer is also result of poor hygiene, especially during menses. It is essential for girls and women to have access to adequate items during that time.
4 Girls and women endanger their lives every month trying to find alternative to sanitary pads and tampons
Not to be stained, women facing period poverty sometimes use unhealthy methods such as folded cloth in their undewear or directly into their vaginas, sponge cut from the matress, leaves or dry animal skin. As we said in point 4, the vagina needs a clean environment at all time, but especially during menses. It is unfair for some women to be forced to endanger their own lives as often as once a month to be able to go on with their daily lives.
5 Period poverty is root to other forms of poverty for women
Several girls around the world miss school because they cannot properly prevent the blood from flowing out anyhow. The result here is failure in school, what often leads to drop out. We all know how difficult it can be for someone who dropped out from school at an early age to secure a good financial revenue in the future. Too many women miss work because of their inability to prevent the blood from staining them and everything used to sit down or lay on. It means women are more exposed to food poverty, clothing poverty and other forms of poverty because of something as natural and normal as periods. It may sound funny, but fighting against period poverty is simply fighting against poverty in general.
The most interesting part here is what you can do to help. Truth is simple things can make tremendous change in this case. You can donate sanitary pads and tampons every month in the school nearby your house or office. Even one package can make the difference, and it will not cost you more than 1 500 FCFA. If you convince 10 people to do the same, it makes 10 packages for the school, what is significant.
If you are still in school or if you are a teacher, you can create a club in your school for youth to be able to help each other. Girls who can afford sanitary pads can donate some to the club for them to be given to girls in need. Or You can join a non profit working with youth in your town, especially in the area of education. You can tell them about the importance of period poverty. You can convince them to start helping girls facing period poverty for them to be able to go to school and secure their future and the one of their family.
You can support an initiative fighting against period poverty. The online magazine Period! presented on their website 5 initiatives across Africa fighting against period poverty in Cameroon, Uganda and other countries. You can start your research from there. Do not forget Google is your friend and is always ready to help when you need to know about something, anything.
Every cause affecting a group’s well-being should be considered everyone’s issue. Please, be ready tp help anytime you can. If you know other ways to fight against period poverty, share them with us in the commentary box!
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