Lets Talk About Period Poverty
Period poverty is a topic that I was unaware of as of recently, and wanted to bring to your attention too. If you’re not familiar with what it is, it’s the lack of access to period protection due to economic factors, which impacts girls and women, and it isn’t just a problem for developing countries.
Nearly 1 in 7 Canadian girls have either left school early or missed school entirely because they did not have access to the feminine care products they needed to manage their periods. I recently partnered with Always to help bring awareness to this issue, because no girl in Canada should have to miss out on any opportunities to grow and become amazing women, just because of a lack of access to period protection.
I wanted to understand how period poverty affects girls in Toronto, so I interviewed two teachers to learn about their personal experiences with this topic. Priya is an elementary school teacher that works primarily in a suburban part of the Greater Toronto Area. Lauren is a grade 9 and 10 math teacher who works in a school located in downtown Toronto.
Q. As a teacher, have you noticed the effects of period poverty? Have you noticed girls consistently missing class because of it?
Lauren: I currently work for a school where the income level is lower, and I have noticed a higher level of absences for the girls in my class due to their menstrual cycles. It’s a difficult issue to pinpoint, but when we start noticing a pattern in attendance for girls, the school does reach out to not only the student, but the family as well. We keep sanitary napkins in our main offices and are allowed to give them to students that require them. However, as a school, we can’t provide enough sanitary napkins to cover every student’s entire period length.
I know it affects the education of these girls. As a grade 9 and 10 math teacher, my job is to help build a deep understanding of the foundations of mathematics, and it is hard to do when someone is missing classes. I often see these girls struggling later on through high school when they start taking more difficult math and science classes. I wish there was more we could do.
Priya: I have not; the school I work for has a fairly decent family income. I have heard of period projects in Toronto, though I have heard nothing to combat this issue elsewhere.
Q. Is it shocking to hear that 1 in 7 Canadian girls are having difficulties accessing feminine care products at school, and are missing out on class and other activities because of it?
Priya: It is surprising as it (feminine care products) is a basic need for females, though for students who live in lower income families these products may be more difficult to come by.
Lauren: I never expected the number to be that high in Canada. I think the majority of people assume it’s a problem for other countries, not something that happens in our own backyard.
Q. Do you know anyone personally who has experienced period poverty?
Lauren: I have students that experience it. It’s hard because there is only so much we can do as teachers. It’s also a difficult topic to talk about because there is so much shame associated with not only poverty, but periods as well. It can be very isolating for the girls it affects.
Priya: It usually is more prevalent in the cities, in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). I have heard from my colleagues in Toronto who work in lower income areas that girls and women have trouble getting support when it comes to menstrual products.
Q. What are some ways we, as women can combat the issue of period poverty?
Priya: As women, we need to shine a light on the issue to help remove the stigma and shame that surrounds periods. By bringing the issue to the forefront, and talking about our periods as freely and honestly as possible, we can rally together to raise awareness and spark a change. Another way we can try to combat the issue is by providing free pads for girls or at discounted rates. We can also work within the sex-ed curriculums to teach what girls need. Providing menstrual products at lower income housing and lower income schooling is key as these students need them the most.
Lauren: Honestly the best things we can do is talk about period poverty and help eliminate the shame that’s involved with menstruation. It shouldn’t be a taboo topic, and the more we normalize speaking about it, the more people will be aware of this topic.
Let’s not let a lack of access to period protection get in the way of a girl’s education and confidence. Here’s how YOU can take action to #EndPeriodPoverty. Purchase an Always Pads pack during your back-to-school shopping trip before September 9th, 2018 and Always will donate one pad to Canadian school girls through schools that support the Always Puberty and Confidence Education Program.This program has provided teachers, nurses and coaches with support materials for puberty education for over 20 years, helping to answer student questions and facilitating discussions among schools.
For more information visit www.always.com
This post is proudly sponsored by Always. The opinions expressed herein are my own.