TACOMA, Washington — “Meeting the hygiene needs of all adolescent girls is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity and public health,” stated Sanjay Wijesekera, former UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Period poverty is an umbrella term referring to girls’ inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products, education, washing facilities and waste management.
Period Poverty Facts
According to UNICEF, 2.4 billion people around the globe are living without basic sanitation services in developing countries. The lack of washing facilities is especially a major problem for women and young girls when it comes to managing their periods.
In Kenya, it is reported that 65% of females are unable to afford menstrual hygiene products. In addition, many rural schools don’t have private places for girls to change their period products. This has incited numerous instances of gender-based violence around the non-private toilet facilities. Furthermore, 88% of Kenyan girls are uncomfortable receiving menstrual information from their mothers. Research also revealed that menstruation is related to gender inequity. Studies show that two out of three pad users in rural Kenya are receiving period products from their sexual partners.
Period Poverty is a Worldwide Issue
South Korea, one of the poorest nations in the 1950s, has undergone significant economic changes in the last 60 years. Just 50 years ago, the per capita income for South Korea was less than $100, but it’s now $40,200. Despite economic growth, women and girls still struggle to afford menstrual hygiene products.
Sanitary products are extremely expensive, which is partly why Korean females in low-income families cannot afford them. According to the Korea Consumer Agency, the average price per one menstrual pad in South Korea is ₩331; this is twice as expensive as Denmark (₩156) and considerably higher than Japan (₩181), the United States (₩181) and Canada (₩202).
South Korean Government Response To Period Poverty
South Korea abolished the tax on sanitary pads, concluding they are a “daily necessity” relatively more quickly than other countries. However, the Korean government didn’t actively fight against period poverty until stories of low-income teenagers went viral. They resorted to using shoe insoles instead of menstrual pads — they couldn’t afford real menstrual products.
When the Korean government found out about the story, the National Assembly responded by introducing the “Amendment to the Youth Welfare Support Act” in November of 2017. The government started providing essential health and hygiene products to the country’s youth. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has also launched a pilot program where free female sanitary products are now provided at 10 public facilities in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
Furthermore, there has been an increase in non-profit organizations in Korea, like the G-Foundation, that receive pad donations from people and provide them to those who need it. People can either donate money to the organization or send unused sanitary pads.
– Alison Choi