What is period poverty? Studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of low-income women struggle to afford menstrual products, the cost of which can lead to difficult choices between health and other basic needs. Women facing period poverty may use, and reuse, other household items to manage their periods, or ration pads or tampons to make them last longer. This can contribute to poor physical health outcomes such as infections and irritation.
Also, lack of access to period products combined with anti-period stigma contribute to negative physical, mental, and social outcomes for low-income women and girls. Students skip school and women skip work during monthly periods because they cannot afford reliable, appropriate products for use at home, at school, or at the workplace. In Florida, for example, 1 in 4 low-income teens has missed class due to a lack of access to these supplies, yet menstrual products are not covered by public SNAP, WIC, or Medicaid benefits, nor are they available cost-free in middle school or high school bathrooms while toilet paper, soap, and paper towels are.
The national organization Alliance for Period Supplies created “Period Poverty Awareness Week” to draw attention to the issue of period poverty and its negative impact on families in Florida and throughout the country. The Zonta Club of Sanibel-Captiva joins other area and national non-profits—Renewing Dignity (Jacksonville), Cycle Forward (Ft. Myers) and the National Diaper Bank Network—in setting aside May 23-29 to begin conversations about period poverty, host a product drive, and collect donations locally.
In her book Periods Gone Public, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf says of period poverty: “The result is, effectively, a denial of [an] equal chance to obtain an education, to acquire the tools to escape poverty, contribute to the economy and participate fully and productively in civic life. When half of the population is held back, all of society suffers.”
During Period Poverty Awareness Week, San-Cap Zontians will host information tables outside Baileys General Store on Monday, May 25 (morning) and May 23 and 27 (afternoons) and collect donations for Cycle Forward of Fort Myers to distribute. According to President-elect Erika Steiner, “Along with Zonta International, we envision a world in which women’s rights are recognized as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential. Period poverty is a huge barrier to achieving this vision for so many women and girls.”
For more information or to make a donation please visit www.ZontaSanCap.org.