Period poverty is a widespread issue that affects roughly 500 million women worldwide. In the US alone, about 16.9 million women live in poverty, and two-thirds could not afford menstrual products within the past year. Further, half of these women had to make the difficult decision between purchasing menstrual products or food. The need for access to free or lower-cost feminine hygiene items, especially for the women in the Native American community, is much greater than many realize. That’s why Running Strong for American Indian Youth is working hard to address this issue through its new WičhičhaǧAStrong program.
What is Period Poverty?
Period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products, facilities, and education surrounding menstrual hygiene. It is a significant issue affecting women and girls worldwide, particularly in low-income countries and communities. The consequences of period poverty include shame, stigma, and exclusion, which impact women’s health, education, and economic opportunities. This is because women and girls experiencing period poverty are more likely to miss school or work when on their periods and even resort to using unsafe and unsanitary materials to manage their periods which can lead to additional health issues.
The Need for Access to Menstrual Products in Native American Communities
Native American women face a higher risk of experiencing period poverty compared to other communities in the United States. Factors such as poverty, lack of access to transportation, and remoteness from healthcare facilities exacerbate the problem. Many Native American communities also lack the resources to purchase and distribute menstrual hygiene products, making it difficult for women and girls to access them.
Addressing Period Poverty in Native American Communities
Running Strong, dedicated to empowering Native American communities, is addressing the issue of period poverty through our program, WičhičhaǧAStrong, which is Lakota for “they all grow, they thrive, they prosper, they are the generation.” The program aims to provide free menstrual hygiene products and education to Native American women and girls, with a focus on remote and underserved communities.
Because we know that addressing period poverty is more than just providing pads and tampons, we will be shipping 3,000 feminine hygiene kits containing flushable wipes, tampons, maxi pads, soap, hand sanitizer, and antiseptic wipes. This will ensure that women and girls have both the menstruation supplies and those additional supplies needed to promote proper hygiene. These kits will go to more than 15 tribal communities in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah. The organization is also partnering with local schools and community centers to distribute the products.
Changing the Narrative Surrounding Menstruation
To address period poverty effectively, breaking the taboo surrounding menstruation and promoting education and awareness is also essential. Menstruation is a natural and normal bodily function, yet it is often stigmatized and shrouded in shame and secrecy. This stigma can prevent women and girls from seeking help and support, thereby compounding the problem of period poverty.
Running Strong is committed to changing the narrative surrounding menstruation and promoting education and awareness. By providing menstrual education, we hope to empower women and girls with the knowledge they need to manage their periods effectively, break down the stigma surrounding menstruation, and promote positive conversations about menstrual health.
Through programs like WičhičhaǧAStrong, we can help to reduce the stigma and ensure that all women have access to the products they need to stay healthy and maintain their daily routines. It is important for us to recognize that period poverty is not just a women’s issue; it is a human rights issue. Everyone deserves access to the basic necessities of life, including menstrual products.
You can make a difference in the lives of Native American women by supporting Running Strong WičhičhaǧAStrong program. By donating, you can help to provide menstrual hygiene kits to women in need and help to reduce the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation. To make a donation, visit https://indianyouth.org/give/.