Millions of women and girls suffer Period Poverty
and Period Shame Globally
Period poverty severely impacts opportunities for women and girls in many parts of the world by restricting their education and employment opportunities. Lack of access to menstrual products and clean sanitary facilities directly impacts women and continuously feeds the poverty cycle.
Our organisation is dedicated to creating international awareness around menstruation and providing solutions to women and schoolgirls in poverty-stricken areas
OUR WORK, OUR MISSION
Tanya Puncuh – Padding Africa founder
It’s not just about ending period poverty, but about equipping women to uplift themselves
What is Period Poverty
Period poverty is caused by a lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and/or waste management. It affects millions of girls and women worldwide. Sanitary pads are not available in rural areas, and women in poverty-stricken communities are often faced with a choice of buying food or sanitary pads.
The cultural shame attached to menstruation, combined with a shortage of resources, prevents women from completing their education and joining the workforce. Every year, millions of girls drop out of school because of menstrual shame – they fall behind in lessons when they take 5 days off in a month due to their natural cycle or stop going to school completely after being teased by their peers for staining their clothes.
More than 800 million people menstruate daily worldwide, and millions of girls and women are affected by period poverty, not only in developing countries but also in developed countries. This is a growing problem, exacerbated by higher costs of living, war, and environmental tragedies.
Poor menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of education, persisting taboos and stigma, limited access to hygienic menstrual products, and poor sanitation infrastructure undermines educational opportunities, health, and overall social status of women and girls around the world.
With proper funding and education, period poverty can be a simple issue to resolve, and something as insignificant as ensuring that girls and women have sanitary pads can go a long way. Our approach gives women and girls a better chance for a future by improving their own lives and communities in general.
Drop out of school
30% of girls DROP OUT of school because they fall behind in their studies or are ashamed to attend school after being teased by their peers for soiling their clothes with blood.
Teenage childbearing can lead to life-long social and economic disadvantages and severe poverty levels. It limits educational and career opportunities and often results in larger family sizes leading to a poorer financial and health status.
Falling behind in school or dropping out of school leads to girls marrying early, often to older men meaning a lifetime of domestic work, teenage childbearing, and often violence. Girls can start their period as young as 10 or 11, and in some cultures, this means they are ready for marriage.
High maternal mortality rate
Maternal mortality rate is high for girls in their teenage years. Their young bodies are not physically ready for childbirth; their pelvises are smaller, and therefore, they are prone to obstructed labour, haemorrhage, and other complications. Babies of adolescent mothers risk low birth weight, birth injuries, mental and physical disabilities, and more.
Young girls do not have adequate knowledge of menstrual hygiene. Poor menstrual hygiene can result in higher health risks, such as reproductive and urinary tract infections which can lead to infertility and birth complications.
Often in poverty-stricken places sanitary products are not available or they are unaffordable. It can even be the choice of putting food on the table or buying sanitary products. It is an increasing problem worldwide due to the increasing cost of living, war, environmental disasters and overpopulation.
Forced into sex
There are reports on how girls and women have been forced into sex in exchange for sanitary products just so they can go to school – Motorcycle taxi drivers, bus drivers, neighbours
Menstrual taboos include the idea that women and girls are impure, dirty and even sinful while they are menstruating. Some of the problems women face with taboos include social exclusion, economic disparity, health issues and even death
At times, girls will dig a hole at home and sit in it for the duration of their menstruation. Some girls will try even dry leaves, chicken feathers, sand, soil, dung, newspapers, pieces of rag or foam mattresses in their underwear to stop the blood seeping through so that they can go to school. Using unhygienic options can result in life-threatening infections and diseases.
What We Do
Padding Africa strives to empower women and girls by breaking the menstrual taboo and providing sustainable, clean menstrual products. We work with local communities and women’s groups across Southern Africa to tackle these issues by training female entrepreneurs and helping girls to build a brighter future.
Funding and donations go directly towards establishing and training sewing groups made up of rural women. We provide them with the tools, know-how and materials they need to make washable sanitary pads that they can sell in their local markets to generate their own income. We also donate sanitary pads made by these women to local schoolgirls so that they can go to school during their menstrual cycle.
Padding Africa works together with ‘The Numwa Mothers Sewing Group’ who are the talented founding seamstress of our washable sanitary pad kits and together we have travelled through Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe assisting and educating local rural women, setting them up in their own micro-business to produce sanitary pads for the vast quantity of women and girls within their communities rendering them self-sustainable.
We acquire essential materials of fabric, thread, water resistant material etc, as well as sewing machines. We travel to remote areas training rural women to sew pads and we also distribute sanitary pad kits to schoolgirls that will last up to 2 years.
We hope to help women set the basis for what can be an ever-expanding craft, from making sanitary pads to clothing or school uniforms that can be sold to friends, markets, and shops.
SANITARY PAD KIT
A single Pad Kit comprises:
- 4 washable sanitary pads
- A pair of underwear
- A towel
- Packaged in a drawstring bag
Billion women on this planet
Million are menstruating any given day
Million don’t have access to menstrual products or adequate facilities
Billion sanitary pad waste monthly
Metric tons of annual menstrual waste a year
Billion waste annually
Billion sanitary products are used per month in North America alone
This is toxic to our health and our planet
Next generation better educated
Reduced disease and infection
Reduced mortality in young child birth
Better earning potential
Reduces child brides
In poverty-stricken rural areas, there is no waste management and often sanitary products are burnt – contaminating the soil, water and air. In areas where waste management does exist, sanitary products are either binned or flushed and not disposed of as they should be, usually ending up in landfills, rivers, and beaches.
Most sanitary products contain over 90% single-use plastic and each pad can contain as much plastic as four shopping bags. Even the string in tampon’s contain plastic, applicators are made from Polyethylene and Polypropylene, and the wrapping and packaging are made from non-recyclable plastic.
This waste is toxic and hazardous to human health as well. Chemicals from sanitary pads reach the soil causing groundwater pollution and loss of soil fertility.
Many women take the disposal of sanitary products for granted. But they are a huge contributor to environmental damage. Yearly estimates of sanitary pad waste that end up in landfills, clog sewers or contribute to the staggering amount of plastic in our oceans.
The overall economy can improve by confronting period poverty and improving menstrual hygiene. Making menstrual products easily available and affordable means that women and girls will have access to education, job opportunities, business development, improved communities, and better earning power rather than staying at home.
Adverse economic effects include:
Lower employment opportunities for girls or women who drop out of school
Loss of wages by women in their workplaces due to missing days at work
Because of financial problems, unavailable products, women and girls have to go without
Higher cost of living worldwide, ecological disasters and war are other contributors to period poverty.