Low-income women deprived of menstrual hygiene

Washington: Women belonging to low-income households face difficulty in accessing basic sanitary supplies, a recent study suggests.

While access to menstrual hygiene products has been generating attention in the developing world, low-income women and girls struggle to afford period supplies and often resort to making do with cloth, rags, paper towels, or even children’s diapers during their monthly cycles.

As part of the study, Anne Sebert Kuhlmann, lead researcher, documented the challenges, from affordability to transportation that low-income people with periods face in accessing basic sanitary supplies.

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Kuhlmann’s study found that nearly two-thirds of the women surveyed were unable to afford menstrual hygiene supplies like pads or tampons at some point during the previous year, and 21 per cent of women lacked supplies on a monthly basis. Nearly half – 46 per cent – of those surveyed could not afford to buy both food and period-related products during the past year.

While lack of access to menstrual hygiene products can result in negative health issues including infection and poor quality-of-life, Kuhlmann points to the need for broader education and policy shifts surrounding menstrual and women’s health.

“Adequate menstrual hygiene management is not a luxury. It is a basic need for all women and should be regarded as a basic woman’s right. Our failure to meet these biological needs for all women in the United States is an affront to their dignity and barrier to their full participation in the social and economic life of our country,” Kuhlmann and her co-authors concluded in the study.

Lack of access to menstrual hygiene products meant that 36 per cent of the surveyed women who reported being employed part or full-time had missed one or more days of work per month due to their periods.

According to Kuhlmann’s findings, taxing period products at the full sales tax rate adds quickly to the “economic cost of being a woman.

“This may not seem like a lot,” Kuhlmann explained, “but for someone who may be struggling to earn enough money for basic necessities, an extra pack of liners every year would be tremendously helpful. Furthermore, this is a financial burden that only affects women with periods.”


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