Every day, thousands of young girls experience their first period and the physical and emotional discomfort that is often paired with it. The biological implications of menstruation are familiarly unforgiving and do not discriminate between race, class or circumstance; a far-reaching unifier among women.
Alongside the physical discomfort comes the societal implications of menstruation that many women face. For generations there has been a propaganda campaign against periods, engraining in women and men alike that ‘period’ is a dirty word, hinted at in whispers and code while carefully curating outfits to avoid anyone noticing the presence of sanitary products.
Now, does anything just described sound like a luxury to you? No? Me neither. Yet it has taken until this year for the government in the UK to reassess the so-called ‘Tampon Tax’ which has meant that sanitary products are taxed as a luxury item, not a necessity. While, after 20 years of protest, the battle has been won in the UK, the war still rages in over half of American states, with only 22 of them having abolished the tax in 2019. According to this legislation, sanitary products are not a medical necessity, despite the fact that without access to them, women are unable to complete everyday tasks such as attend work or school at least once a month. Consequently, every month women are penalised, whether it be in their career or personal life, due to a biological process they are unable to manage simply because of the price of sanitary products.
Reusable sanitary products such as cloth pads and menstrual cups may be a source of respite for some of these issues. By having one product that lasts, potentially, for years, the overall costs of period management could drop dramatically, not to mention the single use waste produced. However, in order for a movement towards sustainable period products to take off, education is key. We need to reframe our view of periods and teach children and adults that there is nothing unclean or shameful about monthly cycles. If reusable products and acceptance of our bodily functions are taught to future generations, they will eventually become the norm, and in doing so, light will be shed on such issues as the ‘Tampon Tax’ which, for now, are so easily dismissed as non-urgent.
While reusable products are paving a new path for future generations of women with the finances to invest, deeper systemic issues prevent the solution from being so straightforward. Women in extreme poverty and developing countries still undergo their cycles every month yet access to even reusable products is not enough. The primary issue with reusable products is that they require adequate sterilization between uses, most commonly in clean, boiling water. But what happens when you don’t even have water to drink?
This is where incredible charities such as Sanitree come in. Sanitree are working to end period poverty in India from their base in Edinburgh, Scotland, by providing reusable sanitary products to girls and women along with the resources to ensure that they are safe. By selling cloth pads through Eco brands in the UK they fundraise and send products over to Jaipur to be distributed. Organisations such as these are yet another reason to invest in reusable products, if you can, as a method to support women around the world that are less fortunate.
These pads are now available to buy on our site, with proceeds going to Sanitree, via the following link: https://www.zephyrecomarket.co.uk/products/reusable-period-sanitary-pad
Until every woman and girl on the planet has access to safe sanitary products the fight is not over, whether you support charities monetarily, march with banners and demand change or raise awareness by talking openly about women’s health issues, every action is a step towards a future where periods are safe and not stigmatised.
Article written by Meg Wright.