Getting your period is expensive: €150 per year according to a study published in Le Monde . Unfortunately, many women do not have the means to afford these hygiene products every month - they are then in a situation of menstrual precariousness. A little publicized problem but not to be taken lightly, the main consequences being shame and social exclusion…
The cost of periodic protection
Several studies have sought to determine the cost of menstruation for women. The results are often very different, in particular because some only count sanitary tampons and pads while others add painkillers, stained underwear, but also sweets and magazines bought to get through this sometimes difficult time .
For example, the BBC has programmed a calculator which states that a woman spends on average 1,730 euros to protect herself throughout her life. The English association Bloody Good Period announces 5,360 euros. Another association mentions 21,500 euros… Difficult to find your way around!
More recently, Le Monde has developed a calculator taking into account various parameters such as the age of the first period and the use of painkillers. According to this estimate, a woman who had her period from 13 to 50 years old, using 4 sanitary napkins on average per day for 5 days, and not consuming painkillers would spend a total of 1425 euros or 37 euros per year.
If the estimates vary, all agree on one point: the rules are (very) expensive. And unfortunately many women do not have enough to afford the sanitary protection they need every month...
Who is affected by menstrual poverty?
It is estimated that 500 million women in the world do not have access to periodic protection for economic reasons.
In France, women in menstrual precariousness are mainly homeless. Testimonies have shed light on a problem that we do not think of at first sight: some women explain that they are forced to choose between food and buying sanitary protection.
But they are not the only ones affected by menstrual poverty. Students, who are not financially supported by their families, may also find it difficult to fit the purchase of sanitary napkins or tampons into their tight budget.
The terrible consequences of menstrual poverty
Not being able to afford the protections you need every month has consequences that are not anecdotal. In addition to the obvious shame and discomfort, menstrual poverty, for example, encourages schoolgirls to stay at home rather than go to school where they do not want to take the risk of appearing with bloodstained clothes. Sanitary problems are also directly linked to this precariousness: infections and toxic shock syndrome can be caused by tampons worn too long or unhygienic, homemade protections.
Menstrual precariousness can also be the cause of trafficking. In Kenya, for example, protections as we know them in the West are too expensive. The Borgen Project , a non-profit organization that fights extreme poverty, estimates that two out of three women receive sanitary protection from men in exchange for sex. This practice begins at the age of 13 for some of them... More and more associations intervene on the spot and distribute protection to young girls in order to restore their independence vis-à-vis men.
Free access to sanitary protection
In Scotland, the government has been distributing sanitary protection in schools and universities since 2018. France is starting to follow the example. Some faculties such as those of Rennes or the Sorbonne in Paris have set up, at the start of the 2019 academic year, free access to periodic protection. Young women can find them in the toilets or in the form of a kit distributed by a student association.
On the other hand, the LMDE, a student mutual fund reimburses hygienic protection up to 20 to 25 euros per year. It is certainly not enough, but it is a start!
Finally, associations like elementary rules set up collections of sanitary protection and redistribute them to women in need. If you have switched to reusable protection such as cups or period panties , do not hesitate to give them your stock of disposable protection.