Letter of the Day | Together we can end period poverty
THE EDITOR, Madam:
This is to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene and the recently commemorated World Menstrual Hygiene Day.
The UNFPA celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28 under the theme ‘Action and Investment in Menstrual Hygiene and Health’. As Jamaicans, we must recognise that period poverty is not foreign to our local communities; therefore, we all have a role to play in creating a safe environment for women to menstruate and with dignity. Our joint efforts can end period poverty locally.
According to UNFPA, period poverty describes the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products. The term also refers to the increased economic vulnerability women and girls face due to the financial burden posed in getting menstrual supplies. These include not only sanitary napkins and tampons but also related costs such as pain medication and underwear.
UNICEF stated in 2019 that gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services like toiletries and sanitary products can all cause menstrual health and hygiene needs to go unmet.
How does this fit in the Jamaican context? Women may benefit from tax-free products such as tampons and pads, but have we considered whether our society is a supportive space for young girls and women who menstruate?
Upon reflection, our role as citizens is to use our privilege to give power. Within the month of May, many non-profit organisations and student-led groups worked towards raising awareness and enacting change through the hosting of sensitisation sessions and conducting collection drives for menstrual products.
A joint effort of national organisations and student-led groups at the UWI, Mona, recently did their part by hosting a social media campaign, a workshop for medical students and raising over 1,000 menstrual hygiene items for a local non-profit group known as HerFlow.
The project received high commendations; however, these actions should not be limited to the month of May, as period poverty continues to affect women every day after the month of awareness activities. There is a need for year-round advocacy.
Jamaicans need to do more to combat period poverty. There is a need for more creative and proactive solutions in our schools to raise awareness. It is imperative that our schools stand as safe spaces for girls experiencing period poverty to ask questions, discuss their problems and to seek assistance.
Where schools are unable to meet the demand, citizens of Jamaica can play their part by donating menstrual hygiene products to a school or a community centre. You can bring change. Children should be educated about period poverty and safe practices for menstruation.
Regardless of whether you are a government official or just a normal citizen, we urge you to play your role in contributing towards creating a supportive society for women who menstruate. We can all contribute to a solution for period poverty.
TEHILLA PAUL AND TREVON FLETCHER
Medical students, UWI, Mona