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It’s time we address the effects of period poverty.

Claudia Ovejero Pham (she/her) from Team August | 7.18.2022

Nearly 1 in 4 menstruators around the world have struggled to access period care.

Everyone deserves a dignified menstruating experience. For us, this means having access to the education and material items you need to take care of yourself and feel confident while on your period. Unfortunately, that is not a reality for all menstruators.

If you’ve been following along with the menstrual movement, you might’ve heard the term period poverty thrown around in relation to lack of products. But period poverty is more than just difficulty getting pads. It refers to the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education which can lead to missing out on opportunities, widening the inequality gap and, consequently, being at risk of health issues like Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

To put it simply, without products, many menstruators cannot participate in their daily life due to their monthly bleed.

Period poverty is important to understand because it directly affects half of the global population at any given time and indirectly affects us all since menstruators are involved in all areas of society!

Political, socioeconomic and cultural barriers all play a large role in the causes of why people experience period poverty. The root cause can be different depending on the menstruators' circumstances, however, financial barriers are a primary cause, in addition to: location, age, race, income and education. Period shame and stigma also often prevent these open and educational conversations from being had – it’s time we change that!

How many people are affected by period poverty?

The answer is WAY too many.

On a world-scale, it’s estimated that around 500 million menstruators around the world struggle to access period products and hygiene – that’s nearly double the population of the United States. WILD, right?!

Period poverty is also one of the leading causes for young menstruators missing school. A Canadian gender study in 2019 found that a third of menstruators under the age of 25 reported that they struggle to buy menstrual products.

Periods should not be a barrier to education, health or working. However, often it is the lack of information or, arguably worse, the mis-information that can change a person’s perceptions of periods and, in turn, encourage the narrative that periods are gross and therefore something to hide.

Societies that see periods as something to feel shameful about often discourage the menstruating student to go to school at that time of the month. Also, menstruators who don’t have access to the products they need inside their schools may feel embarrassed to ask and therefore choose to miss classes. A lack of access to positive period education and access to supplies directly affects a person with a uterus’ education trajectory.

August believes that access to equitable menstrual health should include access to information and educational resources (like our FREE, comprehensible Ask August database). As they say, knowledge is power.

What are some of the effects of period poverty?

Including missing out on education and important opportunities everyone should be able to access regardless of a period, the ability to care for you and your period is also affected when facing period poverty. This includes having access to bathrooms, clean water, and equitable and inclusive healthcare.

Consider someone who doesn’t have access to consistent laundry services, or someone who can’t afford tampons or pads – they may resort to unhygienic alternatives that, in the long term, will have negative health outcomes. For example, a menstruator who doesn’t have pads on hand may try using paper bags and rags to take care of their period which can lead to UTI’s and other infections.

Many menstruators are left having to make a choice between buying period care, buying food or paying for utilities which, on top of typical emotions, can cause high levels of stress and anxiety.

While anyone can experience period poverty, it disproportionately affects certain groups of people.

So who is affected by period poverty you may ask?

While there are many layers to who is affected and how, period poverty affects especially young girls and menstruators who are likely to miss out on education and opportunities because of their period or the inability to access menstrual hygiene.

Other groups where the disparities of period poverty are the most visible include students, low-income and homeless menstruators, those with disabilities and special needs, transgender and nonbinary individuals (READ THIS if you’re interested in understanding more about this and how gender plays a role in menstrual disparities), as well as those who are currently imprisoned.

If you’re left wondering about what to do now to solve period poverty, we got you!

While there isn't one specific right answer, there are many steps we can all take to combat period poverty.

  1. The first step you can take is to spread awareness! Educating yourself and others about periods, even on social media, to debunk the stigma and myths surrounding it is a great place to start. The more open of a conversation we make it, the easier it will be for menstruators to advocate for themselves and menstrual equity.
  2. You can also support other organizations fighting period poverty like PERIOD, an organization that distributes free products to communities in need, and our Philly-based non-profit partner No More Secrets (a great resource to learn more about period poverty) who are a menstrual hub that provides safe access to period products and educational resources to menstruators in need.

What is August doing to combat period poverty?

  • We believe that businesses have the responsibility to give back and make an impact. At check-out from shopping with August, we give the option to donate to our nonprofit partner.

  • For every $5 contributed, we donate 10 pads and for every new subscriber we add to our community, we donate.

  • We also cover the tampon tax in all states where it still exists because are periods really a luxurious enough experience to be taxed as such?! (they’re powerful but not always elegant…)

  • Finally, August also has a program called “August Advocates” where you can nominate your school or public space to stock our period care. We believe free period care should be available in all schools, companies, and shared community spaces. Because why should having a period stop you from earning an education or being present in your day-to-day routine?!

    Part of combating period poverty means making sure that period products are available in as many public places as possible so that anyone who may need them whether that be because they got a surprise period or they are struggling with period poverty can access products. You never know when you or another menstruator may need a tampon so be sure to nominate your school, business, dance studio, favorite cafe – any public space that welcomes menstruators!

Another cool project combatting period poverty that August is part of is the Loopholes campaign.

We partnered with the creative advertising agency 72andSunny on a fake cereal campaign called Loopholes to address period poverty and take action!

Check out the Loopholes campaign to learn how you can take action and contact your local representatives to urge them to support the Menstrual Equity for All Act!

If you’re looking for ways to get involved with tackling period poverty locally, find shelters near you to volunteer at or donate extra products if you have any on hand! It also doesn’t hurt to always carry some extras with you, you never know who could be in need :)

Join the fight against period poverty with us by becoming an Inner Cycle Community member engaged in activism conversations or, considering donating a box today!

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