What is period poverty? According to the American Medical Women’s Association, a common definition is, “inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and educations, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management. Education and advocacy can greatly improve access to hygiene facilities and products, reduce stigma and shame, and encourage education about menstruation.” It is estimated that 500 million women worldwide find themselves included in these period poverty statistics and many of those can’t participate in daily life during their cycle. They don’t have the items they need to manage their periods safely and hygienically and be free from embarrassment and shame.
In fighting this type of poverty,
there are many things to consider as solutions. Here are a few:
Sanitary Products – In many areas of the developing world (and in some developed countries too), the poor are not able to afford sanitary products. A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report states , “1 out of every 10 menstruating girls misses school during their cycle due to lack of access to menstrual products and resources.” This is unfortunate since education and literacy are the best ways to escape poverty. This sets up teen girls in a disadvantaged situation.
In many developing countries, teen girls resort to using paper, old clothes, leaves, cotton or wool pieces in place of sanitary products. When girls are forced to use unsanitary items, there is risk for disease and infection. It is essential that every girl have access to proper sanitary products.
Education – In many cultures, menstruation often comes with shame and stigma. As education occurs and we can normalize conversations about periods, it will reduce the shame and stigma.
Girls often miss school because they don’t understand what is happening in their bodies. They may assume there is something terribly wrong like a serious medical condition. It is important to education both the girls and their parents about menstruating and how it is a normal part of life and that there is no stigma attached. With education, girls can understand the biological process that is occurring.
In some cultures, girls are afraid to tell their parents they have started menstruating because it means that she is ready for marriage. The United Nations reports, “A young girl’s first period can set off several human rights violations, including child marriage, sexual violence, unintended teenage pregnancy, and the disruption or end of their education.” This should not be. Education is essential.
Hygiene and Sanitation Facilities – When schools do not have sanitation facilities, it impacts the enrollment rate of girls and school attendance. Many African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria, have a lack of access to safe, clean, private spaces for menstrual hygiene, according to a 2019 report.
GFA World is committed to seeing women and girls cared for in all areas of their life. As women experience the love of fellow human beings who are willing to serve and minister to them, their understanding of their worth and value in society is elevated. GFA missionaries including men, treat each girl and woman they meet with respect. They speak words of life into the hearts of women…letting them know they matter, they are important, they are valuable, they are loved—even if the rest of society doesn’t believe so.
Through various GFA initiatives, girls and women in parts of Africa and South Asia have opportunities to reach heights they were once barred from reaching because of their gender.
GFA understands the period poverty definition and is combatting it in various ways:
Healthcare Training – GFA teaches women how to care for their own bodies and understand how God designed them. In one year over 381,412 women have received free health care training. These classes also impact the woman’s present or future family.
Child Sponsorship – GFA is also committed to providing help for girls who are entering their teen years. Through these programs, girls have caring women who serve as tutors, educators and mentors in their lives. They receive sanitary products and other helpful guidance. They are encouraged to stay in school and are given help with tuition and school supplies.
Community Development – GFA is often able to help communities build outdoor toilets to give people privacy, eliminating the need for women to relieve themselves in the open. This reduces the risk for violence and abuse.
Will you support one of these initiatives today? Girls deserve to know they have value and worth. There is no stigma or curse that comes with their period. Through the care of women missionaries, these girls learn how to properly treat their bodies. Support an initiative today and help a girl receive the support and products she needs to live a fulfilling life.Learn more about what is poverty
 “Period Poverty.” AMWA. https://www.amwa-doc.org/period-poverty. October 31, 2019.
 “What to know about period poverty.” Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/period-poverty. September 16, 2021.
 “Period Poverty.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Policy Lab. https://policylab.chop.edu/blog/period-poverty-public-health-crisis-we-dont-talk-about. April 6, 2021.
 “Removing the shame and stigma from menstruation.” United Nations Human Rights. https://www.ohchr.org/en/stories/2022/07/removing-shame-and-stigma-menstruation. July 8, 2022.
 Tull, Kerina. “Period Poverty impact on the economic empowerment of women.” https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5c6e87b8ed915d4a32cf063a/period.pdf. January 23, 2019.
 “2016 Special Report.” GFA. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/2016/#women. 2016.
* Cover Photo: “Bangladesh – Rohingya women in refugee camps share stories of loss and hopes of recovery.” UN Women. https://www.flickr.com/photos/unwomen/42674243664/in/photostream/. March 5, 2018.