Here’s The 411 On Period Poverty, And How You Can Support Women’s Lives Globally

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I take for granted the fact that I can walk into a drugstore, buy tampons, pay, and then use them until I’m done. I’ve been doing it since I was 13 – I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s annoying, but I have a solution when my period comes around.

But this is not a reality for plenty of women around the world. Homeless shelters, prisons, and women in poverty all struggle with finding resources during that time of month. It’s so common that we have a name for it: period poverty. But what exactly is period poverty?


What Is Period Poverty?

“Period poverty refers to the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and educations,” explains the American Medical Women’s Association. Simplified: many women do not have the capability of treating their periods properly or in a clean mannerNo woman or girl should have to endure the indignity of going without proper sanitary wear at times when they are already struggling to make ends meet.#MenstruationMatters#EndPeriodPoverty

It’s not just the inability to access these items, though; there is also a stigma attached to this natural process. Combined with lack of education, women and girls may not know much about these changes to their bodies, leading them to feel shame every month.

Period Poverty Across the Globe

Period poverty is prevalent across the globe – you can’t escape from it, no matter where you go. The punishment for a natural bodily function extends to every part of the world. 

ActionAid reports that 50% of school-age girls in Kenya have no access to feminine hygiene products, and 12% of women in India cannot afford sanitation products in the first place. Instead, women may use toilet paper or cloth rather than disposable products. These can lead to infections such as UTIs, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis, which can lead to more serious conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease.

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In Rwanda, schoolgirls may miss up to 50 days of school and work in order to take care of their periods. This can be due to lack of privacy within the bathrooms, inability to manage their period due to lack of resources, or shame that they are menstruating in the first place. And, sadly, some girls may drop out of school entirely, which Global Girls Glow says can lead to increases in trafficking and child marriages.

Period Poverty in the U.S.

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In the U.S., there are steps being made in the right direction. However, there is still a large problem that cannot be denied within the country.

A 2019 study by Reuters Health reported that more than one in five women living in poverty cannot afford menstrual products, therefore relying on products such as rags and paper towels from public restrooms. This is in part due to the “pink tax,” also known as the “tampon tax,” which implies that these products are “luxury items.”

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One of the most common struggles in the U.S. is within Native American reservations. Eva Marie Carney, a dual citizen of the United States and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, founded The Kwek Society, which addresses period poverty in Native communities. They create “moon time bags” (Native communities refer to menstrual periods as “moon time”) filled with feminine hygiene products to keep on hand during periods.

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Her Drive, a non-profit based in Chicago, also helps provide women with feminine products — they’ve donated 165,104 period products (as well as many bras and general hygiene products) to many organizations in states such as California, Texas, and New York. 

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And we would be remiss to not mention the emotional effects that period poverty has on women. In a study by Cardoso L.F. et al, 10% of women reported experiencing period poverty every month; women who experienced this also reported increased moderate/severe depression.

Homelessness and Period Poverty

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Poverty has a major effect on women everywhere, but homeless women have an even higher risk of period poverty due to inaccessible product resources. NOW reports that “the average woman spends about $20 on feminine hygiene products per cycle,” which tallies up to approximately $18,000 in a woman’s lifetime. For women wondering whether they’ll be able to afford their next meal, decisions must be made: food, or feminine products? 

In an interview with the women’s program director at Bridgeport Rescue Mission (located in Connecticut), Yeharar Vielot explained that her shelter only receives approximately 10 boxes of products every other month. With 1,000 homeless women in the Bridgeport area, it’s impossible for each woman to receive the necessary number of feminine products she needs.

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No one wants to sit in soiled makeshift sanitary products or clothing for extended periods of time, and the stigma can make it harder for women to take care of themselves when menstruating on the streets. As one homeless woman said to a report by Bustle, “’Not only is it terrible, but it’s also embarrassing.… Not to mention that now you have this stain on your pants. I only have the clothes that I’m wearing, so I’m standing there half naked, bloodied, you know, washing my clothes out.'”

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Prisons and Period Poverty

Prisons are also guilty of period poverty. Since 2017, federal prisons have been mandated to give access to free feminine products. But this ruling does not extend to state and local jails, where women may be required to beg and barter for extra tampons and pads.

Products served in state and local jails may also be made of cheap materials, therefore requiring doubling up or using more than an average woman would with quality products. This leads to women going through their allotted numbers of products faster than average.

Women may also use products longer than they are intended to be used for. This can result in serious consequences – one woman in Maryland was diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome from wearing a tampon made from toilet paper for too long. The woman was forced to undergo an emergency hysterectomy due to this. And this is only one publicized case.

How to Eradicate Period Poverty

There are many ways you can help to reduce period poverty.

1. Increase education to end the stigma surrounding menstruation.

2. Lobby for the removal of the tampon tax.

3. Donate period supplies to homeless shelters.

4. Provide free period products at schools.

5. Donate to organizations such as ActionAid, UNICEF, and the ACLU. 

There are also many period-care companies dedicated to fighting period poverty. If you’re already using period products, consider ordering from these companies instead:


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LOLA is a company dedicated to making women’s lives easier through their all-natural products and subscription service. While this brand is already changing the period game, they also have partnered with I Support The Girls and donated more than five million products so far. They also partner with Period Equity to fight the tampon tax. 


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Nannocare creates pads that use Far Infrared energy. Basically: their pads use this energy in cotton pads to fight back against common side effects of periods, like cramping. It’s a fancy technology, but it works (just read the reviews). They’re also giving: since 2018, they’ve donated 61,000 period products to organizations including Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles and Salvation Army Hollywood Youth Center.

DivaCup’s DivaCares

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The maker of DivaCup, Diva International Inc., specifically calls out period poverty as something to fight against. They offer education to reduce stigma, advocacy for equity, and access to those who may struggle acquiring products. In the past two years, they’ve donated 15,000 of their cups worldwide, boasting that “[they’ve] supported 180,000 periods!” They are proudly B Corp and you can stay up to date with them HERE!


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The popular period underwear is not just saving your nice underwear – it’s giving back, too, through their GiveRise program. They advocate for equity, demanding all members of the government practice menstrual equity; provide their medically-accurate EveryBody education program, designed by certified teachers and health experts, to educate classrooms on periods; and believe in access for all, partnering with initiatives to expand access to products.

Reduce, Reuse, Donate

In the long-term, switching to a sustainable product like Thinx or DivaCup can help save you plenty of $$, and it’s more sustainable. If you’re wanting to directly donate, consider switching to reusable products, then take your savings, buy sanitary products, and donate them to your local women’s shelter. There are also organizations that have Amazon wishlists, like company #HappyPeriod — take your monthly period-allowance and support the organizations from the comfort of your couch.


Overall, the world is becoming more aware of period poverty and rebelling against what has previously been accepted. Have you ever experienced period poverty? How do you plan on fighting back? Let us know in the comments – we’re all in this battle together.

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