Period poverty, described as “inadequate access to menstrual hygiene, including period products, washing and waste management facilities and education”, (RTE.ie) is a very real issue in Ireland. Whilst you may have heard the term, it can be a lot to wrap your head around. We’re breaking down what exactly period poverty is, who it affects, and what we can do to help alleviate it.
Why Does Period Poverty Exist?
When out shopping, it might not seem like a big deal to many of us to pop a box of tampons or sanitary pads into our shopping trolley in preparation for our next period. However, the average cost of period products ranges from €1.50 to €6 in Ireland. Some may require multiple boxes, which means the cost of having a period can quickly add up. This cost is just not possible for a lot of people who menstruate.
Hygiene practices also play a big part in period poverty. Some people may be able to afford one box of pads or tampons, but require more throughout their period. This leads to wearing the products for much longer than is recommended. This can potentially have very severe side effects.
Surveys by charities and organisations that aim to tackle period poverty have reported that those affected often use items such as socks, toilet paper, and newspapers as makeshift period products.
Shame and embarrassment can also play a bit part in period poverty. Some will choose to go without access to products because they are ashamed to ask for period products. Historically, periods were seen as unclean. They’re not, they’re a natural part of life. However, this sense of ‘uncleanliness’ can lead to a lot of negative repercussions for some people.
What You Can Do To Help…
There are things you can do to help alleviate period poverty in your area. We’ve listed a few ideas.
Organisations like The Homeless Period Ireland accept donations of period products and distribute them to the homeless. You could have a period product drive at your school, local sports club or shop, asking people to buy pads or tampons and donate them.
Buy A Badge
Any Time Of The Month are a student-led social enterprise that sell badges and stickers in support of period poverty. You wear the badge or sticker, and a person who may need a pad or tampon can approach you and ask for one. The money raised through purchasing is used to buy period products for those in need.
You might be surprised by how many people in your community may be feeling the effects of period poverty. By doing something as simple as opening the conversation around periods and period poverty you could really help someone. Period poverty is often linked to insufficient education around the topic of periods, as well as the stigma that can often surround periods, by creating a space where people talk openly about periods you can help in alleviating this stigma.
Check Your Privilege
There are so many options available when it comes to period products nowadays. Whilst sustainable options like period pants and menstrual cups are amazing, they’re not always a fitting choice. Some may not be able to afford the initial cost, others may not have access to sufficient washing facilities to properly clean such items, and many more might not feel comfortable using them. So whilst you may love singing the praises of your menstrual cup, it’s very important to not shame others for the choices they make when it comes to their period products. Sustainability is not a one-size-fits-all model, circumstance plays a big part.
What To Do If You’re Affected By Period Poverty…
The (unnecessary) stigma that surrounds periods can often mean those affected do not seek help. It’s vital to remember that a majority of people get a period, talking about them can seem daunting but periods are probably one of the most relatable things in the world. If you feel you’re affected by period poverty, here are a few ideas of what you can do.
Download The LIDL App
If you have a smartphone, you can download the LIDL app and avail of their new initiative to offer a free pack of pads or tampons once a month. As part of this initiative LIDL have teamed up with The Simon Community and LGFA to offer free period products to clubs across the country. If you don’t have access to the app, contact your local LFGA or The Simon Community and speak to them about accessing period products.
Speak With A Trusted Teacher
Teachers, SNAs and school staff are there to help students. If you feel you are affected by period poverty, it can be helpful to speak with a member of staff that you trust. As they say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, they might be able to help you or put you in contact with an organisation that can help.
Contact An Organisation That Tackles Period Poverty
We’ve mentioned The Simon Community and LGFA, there are other organisations you can speak with who can point you in the right direction when it comes to accessing period products.
Don’t Feel Ashamed
This is one of those ‘easier said than done’ suggestions, I know. But there really isn’t anything to be ashamed of when it comes to having your period, it’s one of the most natural things in the world.
As mentioned above, there can be a lot of pressure to have a sustainable or eco-friendly period. However, you shouldn’t feel ashamed about the products you use to deal with your period. Affordability plays a huge role in the period products we use, that’s an important element everyone needs to understand.
What’s Being Done About Period Poverty?
Period Poverty Is Now A Recognised Issue…
The government of Ireland has recently launched a ‘Period Poverty in Ireland’ Report. Whilst the report has found that more research is required to fully understand the impact of period poverty in Ireland, there’s no denying that there is an issue. In order to alleviate the effects of Period Poverty it’s important for those in need to have access to free period products in a stigma free manner. It’s also vital to have proper education when it comes to periods.
Access To Free Period Products
Countries around the world are recognising the issue that is Period Poverty. In Scotland, there is access to free period products in public buildings for those who need them, New Zealand has also introduced access to free Period Products in schools. Ireland is looking at a similar model in introducing free period products in publicly funded schools.
Organisations and Initiatives Are Helping
As we’ve mentioned, organisations and initiatives like Any Time Of The Month, The Homeless Period Ireland, and LIDL are all helping to tackle the issue of period poverty. There’s lots you can do as well. Whilst it might seem like small steps, progress is progress, hopefully we can look forward to an Ireland that is free of Period Poverty.