Period poverty remains a serious issue affecting women around the world, including young women in Canada.
In fact, one-third of Canadian women under the age of 25 say they’ve struggled to afford menstrual products, a new report states.
The report, conducted by Plan International Canada, polled 2,000 women under the age of 25 to see what the social, emotional and financial costs of menstruation were in the country — and the conclusions they drew paint a picture of what life is really like for struggling young women.
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“Our survey results show that period poverty is a real, often devastating issue faced by young women and girls in Canada and worldwide,” says Saadya Hamdan, director of gender equality at Plan International Canada. “Without affordable access to menstrual hygiene products, girls and women everywhere are prevented from fulfilling their potential.”
According to the survey, feminine hygiene products were among the top-three material costs of being a woman across all age groups (with the exception of over 65).
On average, women under 25 specifically say they spend over $200 more per month on personal appearance and hygiene products than men.
“While this statistic is surprising, it also underscores what women and girls who have periods know: menstrual hygiene products are not a luxury,” Hamdani says. “Like toilet paper, soap and water, hygiene products are not optional. They are necessary and essential to women’s and girls’ health, and participating in work, school and society.”
On top of that, the survey found that 83 per cent of women feel that their period prevents them from fully participating in activities, while 70 per cent say they have missed school or work or have withdrawn from social activities because of their period.
The findings of the survey show a critical need for leadership in addressing menstrual issues in Canada, as well as around the world, the report states, as it is part of the conversation of gender equality.
But stigma is still an issue, Hamdani says.
This statement was reflected in the survey results as 74 per cent of young women report having had other people accuse them of PMS.
And while 66 per cent of parents say they’re comfortable talking about girls’ and women’s bodies, health and wellness, 71 per cent say that subject is easier to have with their daughters.
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“Period stigma is, unfortunately, alive and well both here in Canada and in so many of the countries we work in around the world,” Hamdani says. “Combined with cultural taboos and misinformation about menstruation, period stigma is a form of gender discrimination that can cause emotion anxiety, and affect girls’ and women’s mental health.”
And it’s time people start caring about this issue, Hamdani says.
“People should care about this issue because it directly affects half of our global population for a significant portion of their lives,” she says. “Estimates suggest that the average woman spend upwards of six years menstruating over the course of her lifetime, yet periods are still overwhelmingly linked with shame, and continue to be shrouded in secrecy.”
To end period stigma once and for all, Hamdani says we have to bring periods to the start of the conversation.
“A conversation about periods is a conversation about gender equality — and it’s a conversation we’re simply not having as a society right now,” she says. “In order to address period poverty and other menstrual hygiene issues, we need to ensure that there are leaders in government, corporations and communities who will openly advocate for this issue.”
And if those in power aren’t aware of the reality of menstruation, how will we ever prioritize women’s health issues? Hamdani asks.