Period poverty in Ukraine
Editor Bridie Adams discusses how the war in Ukraine is affecting access to period products and lists ways to help those fighting period poverty.
Period poverty is a lack of access to sanitary products, education on periods, personal hygiene facilities and waste management — it can also be an amalgamation of these problems. It describes the struggle low-income women and girls face while trying to pay for sanitary products, as purchasing period supplies can lead to women and girls being economically vulnerable. In spite of the fact that the Government pledged £2 million to organisations working to end period poverty globally, the issue continues to have an effect on roughly 500 million individuals worldwide.
As Ukrainians hurry to flee their native country, grabbing sanitary products might be the last thing on their mind. UN Women executive director Claire Barnett says that families have made the organisation aware that they are “leaving with only a few items” and that “women will not […] bring the supply […] that they need.” For women who are in a war zone, getting their period may be the least of their worries. But access to sanitary products is critical, especially as menstruation can also come with cramps, and the stresses of conflict can result in heavier, more painful periods. However, Ukrainian refugees may not have access to these products at all.
But access to sanitary products is critical, especially as menstruation can also come with cramps, and the stresses of conflict can result in heavier, more painful periods
Of course, this issue is on a global scale. 3,500 days of the average woman’s lifespan will be spent having periods and, worldwide, girls are often absent from school whilst menstruating, which negatively impacts their education. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, some girls will be absent from approximately 20 percent of their academic year; some may withdraw from school entirely. Pakistan, a country in South Asia, has a lengthy history of period poverty, with its origins in its patriarchal social order as periods are seen as disgraceful and frequently result in the ostracization of women.
Moreover, period poverty can bring about all sorts of stressful situations and physical health difficulties, often resulting from individuals having to create tampons and pads out of household items. Applying these products, that aren’t made for purpose or “hygienic,” can be damaging to your body, according to Dr. Jennifer Lincoln MD, IBCLC.
“People who are forced to leave their homes in a war zone are unlikely to be able to carry everything they need, or to be able to plan ahead – it’s a crisis,” Rachel Grocott, communications director of Bloody Good Period, tells The Independent.
“If period products are available, they are often sold at such high prices that women are forced to choose between [the products] and other essentials, including food.” Grocott adds that access to period products isn’t about “dignity” as they are an essential requirement. She says “periods should be […] a part of humanitarian relief.”
Period poverty is very real and Ukrainians require these products right now. The set of circumstances in Ukraine has created a surge of sympathy towards the displaced people, but very little of this conversation has been directed towards period poverty, and donors often overlook including period products in their packages.
To help, you can:
- Find a product donation point and donate sanitary products.
- Purchase your own sanitary products from companies like Freda that give donations to end period poverty.
- Give to either community-focused or international charities.
- Sign petitions.
- Educate yourself on these matters.
- Pay attention to stories and experiences of those struggling with period poverty.