What is Period poverty and How to End Period Poverty?

What is Period poverty and How to End Period Poverty?
What is Period poverty and How to End Period Poverty?

Period poverty refers to social, economic, political, and cultural barriers to menstrual products, education, and sanitation.

Although Period poverty is a widespread problem, research on this topic lacks. In 2019, experts from academic institutions, NGOs, governments, UN organizations, and elsewhere came together to form the Global Menstrual Collective to address this issue.

The Global Menstrual Collective defines menstrual health as “the complete state of physical, mental and social well-being associated with the menstrual cycle, not just the absence of disease or infirmity.” It states that people should:

  • Get information on menstruation, life changes, and hygiene practices
  • Ability to take care of yourself during menstruation
  • Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services
  • Ability to receive a diagnosis of menstrual cycle disorders and access to healthcare
  • A positive, supportive environment in which informed decisions can be made
  • The ability to participate in all aspects of life, such as work and school

How period poverty affects people

Period poverty can affect people in many ways. This can make them feel embarrassed or ashamed about their periods and cause young people to miss school due to a lack of period products.

Mental health and well-being

The inability to use proper menstrual products to control periods can make people feel restless, distressed, and uncomfortable. Research has found that not having access to these products can negatively impact someone’s mental health.

For example, one study of women attending college found that 68.1% of participants who experienced menstrual poverty had moderate to severe depression symptoms.
They also had higher rates of depression than participants who had not experienced menstrual poverty.

Many people living in period poverty also fall into this category. So, while people without access to menstrual products may have a higher chance of developing depression, it cannot be concluded that menstrual poverty directly contributes to depression.

Health and hygiene

Wipes, toilet paper, and children’s diapers have been reported by those unable to use menstrual products. Some people also use menstrual products they do have for longer than expected.

These alternative products put individuals at a higher risk of genitourinary infections, i.e., urinary and reproductive system diseases. These infections include urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis.

Using the product longer than expected can also be dangerous. Leaving tampons on for too long can increase a person’s risk of developing toxic shock syndrome, a rare but dangerous infection.


Period poverty can hinder people’s participation in the workforce, which can have significant economic consequences for them and their families.

A study in Bangladesh showed that 73% of women missed an average of 6 days per month. However, absenteeism decreased when the HER program provided sanitary pads and implemented work-based behavior change interventions.


Menstruating people uncomfortable, distracted, or unable to participate because of leaky periods and odors may have a negative experience with school or college.

This experience can have long-term effects. Low attendance can affect a person’s future earning potential, self-esteem, health outcomes, and sense of control.

How can we end period poverty?

Period poverty is a global public health crisis that requires serious attention. People can end period poverty by:

  • National Advocacy: Menstruation requires government support to provide adequate infrastructure and affordable menstrual products.
  • Increase education and knowledge sharing: Knowledge sharing among period poverty organizations, communities, and schools can engage menstruation in the conversation and provide education without stigma.
  • Private sector: Businesses can provide information and access to facilities and products to help de-stigmatize menstruation and incorporate menstrual management into their policies.
  • Evidence-Based Philanthropy Programs: Programs educate about menstruation, provide essential products, and support people and their communities.
  • Legislation: Protective legislation can ensure affordable access to appropriate facilities and menstrual hygiene products. The government could also reduce taxes on menstrual products, making them more affordable.