We probably all know that women in developing countries struggle to find sanitary products, especially where menstruation is seen as a sin rather than a natural process.
Although, what might come as a surprise is that this is also a problem in the UK.
Girls and women from low-income families often can’t afford to buy tampons or pads.
Without anyone to help them or any money to buy the products, most girls reported that they used tissues or socks as a replacement, choosing to stay home in period days to avoid being uncomfortable.
This obviously results in some of them getting in trouble and being faced by the school about their attendance.
In case of those with a family depending on them, they must choose between sanitary products and food or bills.
It’s not surprising when they say that they’d rather feed their children or pay for the electricity.
Is it right that these products are still not accessible to everyone, considering that menstruation is a natural and inevitable process?
As a society we always treated it as a taboo and even today it’s a ‘women’s secret’, making it an uncomfortable topic to talk about.
This then leads to most women and girls not speaking out about the problems related to it, such as period poverty.
It’s hard to understand how many women suffer from it.
Young girls especially think they are alone in this and are reluctant to find help as they are afraid of being judged.
What has been done so far to help make sanitary products more accessible?
In 2000 the VAT on sanitary products has been reduced from 17,5% to 5%.
When asked to cut the VAT totally, the government said that it wasn’t possible under EU regulations, although a new law could be introduced in 2018.
In the meantime, the revenue from tax on these items has been used to make sure that women could have access to them through charities.
Following Tesco, other UK retailers have decided to discount sanitary items by 5% waiting for the VAT to be scraped off entirely.
Scotland, on the other hand, invested £42,500 to get free sanitary products to women from low-income families; this plan as well will reach out to them through charities.
It’s not ideal as there are still a lot of people who find it embarrassing to ask for help, but it’s a step forward.
We have a long way to go before we can put an end to period poverty, but I believe that, if we have more open and honest discussions about this, we can change the way society treats the problem.
We should start by treating menstruation as the natural process it is rather than a stigma.