Graduate Women International
How Period Poverty Impacts Students and Student Athletes, 16 March 2023

Education and training of women, Women and health
SDG 1 – No Poverty, SDG3 – Good Health and Well-Being, SDG4 – Quality Education, SDG6 – Clean Water and Sanitation
Building Peace through Women’s Education (2019), Promoting and defending human rights of women in universities and other post-secondary forms of education (2022)
The session relates the work of GWI and our NFA as period poverty severely impacts the access to education of millions of adolescent girls on Earth. In countries where they do not have access to the necessary equipment, young girls sometimes miss several days of classes per month because they cannot attend. Missing these precious hours of lessons has irrational consequences on the course of these last and their access to a quality education, thus deepening a little more the pit between the access to education of girls and boys.
One in 10 women in the world is facing menstrual precariousness, which is more than 500 million women and girls worldwide. The consequences are many: some miss school and work, it can create toxic shock problems and infections because the protections used are inadequate, and it can create psychological trauma and a feeling of shame in these young women. Period poverty has several shortcomings: it can be the lack of money to buy protections, the lack of access to these protections in some countries or rural regions, or the lack of access to clean drinking water and toilets. Several speakers explained the relationship to period in their countries:
I?layda Eskita?ç?o?lu Karavelio?lu, a human rights lawyer and co-founder of several NGOs, explained that in Turkey one in five women does not have access to the equipment needed to manage their rules, and that these figures tend to increase drastically because of the earthquake and its consequences – knowing that the sanitary protections have not even been recognized as material of first necessity to provide to the population by the government.
Patricia Zanella, a Brazilian activist for gender equality and a social entrepreneur, recalls that in Brazil, a quarter of young girls miss school because of menstrual poverty, and more than a million of them live in places without adequate toilets and hygiene equipment.
Aria Mustary an Ed.M Candidate at Harvard Graduate School of Education from Bangladesh, explains that in her country menstrual precaritis is both caused by a lack of money and a lack of education about what the rules are, and the fact that it’s a normal mechanism of the human body and not something dirty. The subject is treated in a contradictory way: on the one hand the rules remain a taboo, but on the other it is sometimes at the center of the life of women: they must for example marry as soon as they have had their first period.
The same goes for Aarushi Gupta is a young menstrual health activist from Delhi, India: the rules are still struck as something dirty in her country, sometimes prohibiting women from cooking, or being in the same room as men, Social isolation can create trauma and affect women’s perception of themselves and their bodies.
The session reminds us that access to the equipment necessary to manage their periods is a sine qua non of access to education for girls everywhere in the world, even in the developed countries. In France, for example, one in 10 students has menstrual precaritis. GWI, already engaged for many years in this fight, must continue so that every girl can have access to adapted protections and that these periods do not disturb her learning and education. Nevertheless, campaigns must be conducted both at the international level, because this is a problem that concerns all of us, but also at the local level because each country, for traditional, cultural or religious reasons, has a different relationship with rules and women in general.

Various solutions are to be combined to solve this problem. On the one hand, economic level: invest in access to water and a shower for everyone, set up distributors of periodical protection in each school or university as is already the case in several European countries; but also at the level of education: There is an urgent need for campaigns to educate men and women about the reality of menstruation. It is not a period during which women are dirty or impure, but a biological and natural reality to which we are all confronted. Denying this reality has serious physical and moral consequences for young women and it is necessary to remedy it.


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