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For Some Women the Cost of Menstruation Is ‘Period Poverty’

Today, as you read this article, 1 out of 5 girls in America is sitting at home and not in a classroom.

Those girls are facing the harsh reality that life is more expensive for women. They are among the many women across the globe, and here at home, who cannot afford the extra cost that comes along with being a woman. Women will spend upwards of $2,000 in their lifetime, roughly $60 per year, on things such as tampons, pads, and everything else in between.

However, few have stopped to ask about those who already struggle to make ends meet. If you’re already struggling, how do you get the money to be able to afford basic feminine hygiene products?

While most of us are dealing with questions like tampons vs pads? What exactly is a cup? Can tampons be eco-friendly? For some women the questions are more complex. Women are debating between dinner and a box of pads and the long-term effects of this are dire.

These women who lack accessibility to feminine hygiene products fall under the “period poverty” bracket. For these women, every month they struggle or simply cannot find the extra $10 on average that a package of femine hygiene products will cost [every month for the rest of her menstruating years]. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the infamous pink tax, or the tax that is charged on-top of the cost of these other goods.

The pink tax is extra money women spend in the form of taxes per year that men don’t have to. Women in some states, like California, have paid more than $20 million through the taxes they’ve paid on feminine hygiene products.

If you’ve felt that a few cents here and a few cents there seemed insubstantial studies show that overtime, this can really add up. A woman in her 60s will have spent nearly $82,000 in fees over her lifetime. That’s $82,000 that a man her age didn’t have to account for.

For a lot of women deciding between a meal and a pad is impossible. What we’ve found through our work is that every year the number of women having to make these tough choices increases.

A study led by Anne Sebert Kuhlmann, an associate professor at the College for Public Health and Social Justice at St. Louis University dove deeper into this topic and tried to put some numbers to these claims. The results were astonishing. According to Kuhlman, from July 2017 to March 2018 about 64% of American women faced difficulty affording female hygiene products at least once in that past year. Of these women, two-thirds expected to continue to have issues affording them on a monthly basis.

As women continue to raise their voices for female equity, the reality is that we will not achieve this without this basic need being addressed for all women and girls.  Lack of accessibility to things like tampons and pads means that girls are getting left behind. Across the globe girls are less likely to graduate from secondary school than boys. In fact, around the world 131 million girls are out of school worldwide and periods play a significant role in that.

Lack of access to basic care also brings major health risks. Women who cannot afford menstrual products have reported that they’ve resorted to using whatever they can find. Products commonly used include toilet paper, paper towels, rags, and even old or dirty socks.  These unsanitary practices can lead to significant health risks like HPV and incontinence.

One thing is certain, periods are a part of every woman’s life. However, for some women not having access to tampons and pads means doing without one of life’s basic needs.