Advocates say that menstrual poverty is still a neglected health problem in Philadelphia and the United States
When Grace Clarke grew up in Monrovia, Liberia, her family could not afford menstrual supplies, such as sanitary napkins or tampons. Instead, she will use old clothes or towels all day long.
This inability to obtain menstrual products or purchase them is called menstrual poverty.
This experience left a huge impact, so that Clark, who later moved to the United States, helped set up a non-profit organization to provide menstrual products to Liberian teenagers with her sister Lovette Qualah. She is also one of several passionate women working to solve menstrual poverty in the Philadelphia area and other areas.
Although Clark experienced a period of poverty in Liberia, many American residents also had difficulty in affording or obtaining hygiene products. In order to manage their cycles, they turned to alternative products or used products for much longer than expected. This can lead to health complications and infections, and lead to long-term health risks.
research shows A quarter of women have difficulty purchasing menstrual products because of insufficient income, and one in five low-income women truant from school or work because they cannot obtain these products.
Clark said that in Liberia, many people drop out of school after menstruation because they cannot get menstrual products.To solve this problem, Clark and her sister initiated Positive Action Driving Safety for Girls, or PADS for Girls, an organization Products have been provided to 176 girls in 9 communities. The organization also teaches girls about sexual health, professionalism and entrepreneurship.
Clark received a master’s degree in public health from LaSalle University this spring, and she said her own menstrual poverty experience inspired her to help.
“It was definitely an experience that made me understand the importance of the lack of sanitary napkins and products of the times in our hometown,” she said. “This is something I can definitely relate to.”
In Philadelphia, Clark worked with Shelby Davis, a youth medicine researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Period Poverty Research Project This increases screening for unmet menstrual hygiene needs.
Davis said that data on how many people in the city and the United States experience menstrual poverty are difficult to measure because most research on the subject is limited.
Leaders of local non-profit organizations, No more secrets, To provide menstrual products to people in Philadelphia, and it is estimated that they provide services to approximately 1,000 people in the community.
Lynette Medley co-founded No More Secrets with her daughter Nya Mcglone. She experienced menstrual poverty when she was young and was surprised that it still prevailed many years later. So she took the initiative.
“This is my life experience. I have experienced menstrual poverty. My daughter has also experienced menstrual poverty,” she said. “It was not a name at the time because it was so normalized in our community, and this is what happened.”
Earlier this year, they opened This point, A menstrual center that provides free products, education, WiFi, and food insecure resource information.
Medley said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, local demand surged. DDuring the pandemic, No More Secrets’ deliveries increased from approximately 85 times a week to 270 times a week.
- Need help getting menstrual products?
- This point, Located at 4811 Germantown Ave. Suite 101, it is a menstrual center that provides free menstrual products, resources, education and community support.
- No more secrets: Register for products that deliver menstrual products to your home through No More Secrets.
This demand is felt throughout the United States A recent report during the non-profit organization period, The state of the period, Comparing the survey of menstruating adolescents from 2019 to 2021, it was found that the pandemic caused a sharp increase in menstrual poverty in the United States
Federal aid to low-income Americans does not cover menstrual products. On the contrary, although more states, including Pennsylvania, have ended this so-called “pink” tax, products from these periods have been taxed as luxury goods. According to NPR.
“I think [stigma is] Medley said: “We still insist on that kind of power. We don’t get any funding from the cities we serve because I still don’t think it’s necessary. I think it’s changed within our community because we created real conversations. Space.”
Davis said her research shows that a multi-pronged approach is needed to solve this problem.
She said: “Therefore, this is a policy consideration, calling on legislators to provide more products in school bathrooms and public bathrooms.” “We know that not being able to obtain menstrual products can lead to poor health outcomes, so I think we need to start Think of it as a medical problem-public health and medical problems.”
Davis said that she is currently collecting personal narratives of youth in the community, “to understand and gain insight into the barriers and facilitating factors in obtaining proper menstrual health and hygiene, and then to explore the stigma and shame around menstruating teenagers.”
So far, she has found that although menstrual poverty is mainly caused by economic obstacles, lack of sex education and the stigma of menstruation also make it difficult for young people to talk about menstruation and seek help.
“I think this is an issue that has not received the attention it deserves,” Davis said. “I think we have been asking young people about their menstrual period, such as the duration, the amount of bleeding-and whether they have any obstacles to obtaining menstrual products. I think this is as important to their genitals and reproductive health as the frequency of use is getting them Period.”
Failure to obtain menstrual products can lead to hygiene problems, urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis, all of which can lead to long-term health problems, including kidney damage. The stress of not having these products can also lead to poor mental health, depression and anxiety.
Lack of access can also increase stigma in minority communities.
“I already think it’s hard enough for blacks, browns, people with disabilities, refugees, and Latinos to lead a dignified life and achieve success,” Medley said. “There are many other obstacles. For me, this is one of the things they shouldn’t ask for. They shouldn’t try to ask for it. This is a normal and natural part of life. Normal, for me, a natural function Prevent people from reaching their full potential.”
Medley said that schools with free lunch programs should also provide students with products during the free period. She also hopes to see these products added to the federal aid program.
Although menstrual poverty has attracted more and more attention recently, Clark said she believes that the product will eventually need to be free.Last year, Scotland became The first country to provide menstrual supplies for free To its citizens. The government estimates that it will spend about 32 million U.S. dollars each year.
“Never mind, [the products are] It’s always needed,” Clark said. “Therefore, getting free menstrual products, whether they start in the school system, and being able to provide these products to students for free, will definitely reduce the risk of menstrual hygiene. “
Currently, Clark is working to register PADS for Girls as a non-profit organization in Liberia and the United States. Her ultimate goal is to create a space for Liberian women to understand their menstruation and health status.
“My vision for our organization is that we really consider having our own women’s clinic, where we can provide other health education methods, as well as health-related needs that our community lacks,” she said. “Many people in Liberia lack the resources to take care of themselves in a healthy way.”