Menstruation is a monthly occurrence for 1.8 billion people of reproductive age worldwide, yet it remains an unavoidable fact that millions of them are denied access to practical, sanitary and dignified solutions for their periods. 

Women’s reproductive health is often viewed as a taboo topic, yet it remains one of the most important issues to be solved if we are to create a truly equal world. Period poverty is a term used to describe the lack of access to sanitary products, facilities and education. 

At Barefoot College, we believe that the answer lies in truly grassroots solutions and that it is only by investing in women and girls that we will achieve our goals.

You can join us in taking action to fight global period poverty by supporting our menstrual program here

Period Poverty – The Statistics

Whilst access to period solutions seems like a basic right for many, their absence has a much too real impact for millions of women every single day. 

In India, where we first launched our women’s health programs, ONLY 12% of women can afford menstrual products leaving many to improvise with unsafe alternatives. According to the Indian Ministry of Health, this puts 70% of menstruating women at risk of infection and is a contributing factor in the increased rates of cervical cancer seen in India when compared with countries such as the United Kingdom.

UNICEF estimates that 1 in 10 girls in Africa miss school during their period, impacting educational opportunities and further exacerbating the inequality between boys and girls and directly affecting their SDGs.

Period Poverty – The Solution

There are many things that need to happen in order to completely eradicate period poverty and changes must be made at every level, from government policy to personal action. However, we believe that there are two key areas to tackle in order to make the biggest change – Education & Access. 

Education as a Solution to Menstrual Inequality

Barefoot College* runs a unique, interactive curriculum designed to educate rural women and girls about their reproductive health, menstrual hygiene and their human rights. 

Educating all members of the community, both female and male, removes the stigma around menstruation, which is so often seen as a shameful or dirty experience. This empowers women and instils them with a sense of bodily autonomy and pride, whilst protecting them from infection and other health issues. 

Barefoot College also works in the wider community, encouraging households and public spaces to implement necessary facilities such as hand washing and sanitary disposal systems.

Access to Sanitary Products

The other half of our menstrual program is aimed at providing women with practical, hygienic and culturally relevant solutions to their periods that are also environmentally friendly. 

Whilst some governments and NGOs have begun to provide sanitary towels to menstruating women in the developing world, these are made using plastic and chemicals thus creating unforeseen environmental issues. What’s more, these products often don’t provide the women with a solution that works for them on a practical and cultural level. 

This part of our program works in two stages. In the first instance, we fund the production of reusable sanitary towels and eco friendly disposable pads, as well as sourcing locally made menstrual cups. This variety creates choice, enabling women and girls to pick the solution that works best for their personal and cultural circumstances. 

These products are made by the women we work within the communities, who then sell them at a fair price, thereby creating a  secondary income as well as providing menstrual solutions to the wider community. This full-circle initiative works to solve the immediate problem of period poverty, whilst injecting money into the local economy and providing long term economic uplift. 

*Barefoot College funds are used to run our educational programs and to produce the sanitary products.

Support Our Fight Against Period Poverty

If you would like to support our efforts in the fight against global period poverty, you can do so by donating to fund our women’s health initiative. 

A donation of just £7 could make a pack of six reusable sanitary pads, whilst a donation of £30 could provide a girl with education and sanitary products for a whole year. 

Donate to this campaign via Just Giving here and don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter using the form below to hear updates about this campaign.