Menstrual Equity, Poverty, and GBV

16 Days of Activism

Nearly half of the world's population will experience menstruation at some point. 

The World Bank estimates that as many as 500 million people across the globe lack access to basic menstrual products and clean bathroom facilities during their cycles. This has come to be known as “period poverty”, and it has serious impacts on people's health and livelihood. 

Menstruation is rarely recognized as a trigger for gender-based violence (GBV) but menstrual equity and GBV prevention go hand in hand. In many communities, taboos and stigma around menstruation are linked to instances of violence toward women and girls. The ability of people who menstruate to manage their periods with dignity is impaired by issues of unemployment, poverty, gender stereotypes, and harmful social norms.  Global economic stressors trickle down to impact menstruating individuals by placing them at greater risk for a gendered form of economic violence tied to menstrual cycles. This can occur when funds to purchase menstrual products are withheld by a patriarch, partner, or parent, or when individuals lack an understanding of menstrual products as essential.

Access to menstrual products is critical to women's liberation and empowerment. Menstrual health entails taking care of one's own sexual and reproductive health. Even something as simple as being able to leave the house poses a risk for women and girls all over the world, who may avoid going to school for fear of staining their clothes and being teased if they do not have access to proper period products. Once girls fall behind in school, they are more likely to drop out completely and become much more vulnerable to sexual violence, child marriage, or early pregnancy. This shame surrounding menstruation affects many menstruating women and their communities, making it difficult to pursue opportunities in education, work, or feeling free from social stigma.

How can you support menstrual health?

  • Join and promote spaces to discuss openly about menstruation and human rights (with family, classmates, coworkers and other groups).  
  • Support organizations that provide menstrual products and services to people in need and call for the implementation of policies that prevent menstrual poverty. 
  • Talking about menstruation could be difficult or embarrassing for some people. Remember to be empathetic and encourage safe spaces for change-making conversations. 

More resources:

Authored by Rachel Guerreiro, NGO CSW/NY Advocacy Intern, and Carla Cordova, NGO CSW/NY Communications Intern