One of the primary ways for women and young girls to achieve socio-economic advancement is through education. When we think of barriers to education, we most commonly think of access to proper nutrition, household instability and limited school resources.
How often do we consider the lack of menstrual hygiene products as a culprit? In the United States, menstrual hygiene products are not always affordable, nor are they readily available in all schools or work settings for people with vaginas to use. Per a survey conducted on 693 young women who attended high school in the United States, more than 90% of the respondents required menstrual products while in school, but only 42% attended schools that offered the products, of which most charged a fee.
The young women cited missing or being late for school, leaving school early and experiencing negative educational and health impacts due to reduced access to menstrual hygiene products.This is not just an issue in the United States, it is a worldwide issue. Access to education is a key driver for social, economic and sexual independence of women. However, in many nations young girls miss school every menstrual cycle due to this inaccessibility to menstrual hygiene products and lack of education- this is an average of 3 to 5 days out of every month.
Menstruation is a natural part of life. For most young girls, it is a monthly occurrence and should never be a barrier to education. Menstrual products should be freely accessible to young girls and women, especially those in the crucial years of schooling, middle and high school.
The issue at hand may seem trivial to those who do not experience it, but to many young girls and women, it is a monumental hurdle to overcome in achieving an unencumbered education.
Recently, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free of charge as a means to end period poverty. While advocates continue to push for the United States to step up as a super power and remove this barrier, there are several organizations such as June Cup offering several options for period products. As those of us who menstruate know, everyone’s period is unique.
By Brittany Maniga
Brittany is Founder/President of She Is STEM, Inc. A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based out of Florida on a mission to strengthen communities through assisting those in need, while inspiring girls and women in STEM programs to take control of their lives and pursue the future they have always envisioned.