How Have School Closures During Coronavirus Affected Period Poverty?

Over the last year, it’s very likely that your life has changed exponentially. Schools and offices have closed and meeting with big groups of friends and family has been strongly advised against. It’s likely that the closures of schools and workplaces have had a big impact on your way of life and mental health as many people aren’t getting the interaction with others that they’re used to. However, school closures have also had a dramatic impact on period poverty. Over the last six months, experts have examined how Covid-19 restrictions have affected those who struggle to access hygiene products and the UN has concluded that the pandemic has set back progress to eradicate extreme poverty. 

It’s estimated that between 80% and 90% of children of school age have been out of an educational setting at some point throughout the pandemic. Schools are so much more than a place of learning for so many children and research has found that one in four people who have periods struggle to purchase menstrual hygiene products on an ongoing basis. As many schools have moved to virtual education from September, many students will lack access to period products otherwise provided at their schools. 

Period poverty is defined as being unable to access sanitary products and having poor knowledge of menstruation often due to financial constraints. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and school closures, Plan International UK reported that one in ten students who menstruate have been unable to afford sanitary products and 26% said they didn’t know what to do when they started their period. One in seven said they’ve had to borrow sanitary products from friends in the past due to financial issues and 19% have changed what they use to a less suitable product due to cost. Shockingly, 48% of students said they are embarrassed by their period.

While many charities and organizations have worked tirelessly to bust the stigma and embarrassment attached to menstruation, studies have identified that period poverty has got worse during the pandemic and that may partly be down to students not accessing resources at school. In another study, Plan International UK spoke to 45 health professionals from 30 countries. They said that price increases and shortages of sanitary products during the pandemic have led to a rise in period poverty. 73% said there’s restricted access to products due to shortages and disruptions in the supply process. 

Speaking about the research Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International UK said, “We already know that the Covid-19 outbreak is having a devastating impact on family finances all over the world but now we see that girls and women are also facing widespread shortages and price hikes on period products, with the result that many are being forced to make do with whatever they can find to manage their period.”

As it becomes clearer how the pandemic has affected period poverty, some charities and organizations have worked to help people access the advice and resources that they need. U by Kortex has sponsored initiatives with the Alliance for Period Supplies in order to fill gaps. This has included She Supply which encourages volunteers in North Texas to drop off period products to be redistributed. Similarly, Diaper Bank of North Carolina has distributed hygiene products to those in need. ActionAid, Freedom4Girls and Fempowered are also among other organizations working to end period poverty. 

The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on everyone. However, as many young people rely on their school to provide them with menstrual hygiene products and advice, school closures have exacerbated period poverty. 

UN Women and the United Nations Development Program have released research that highlights that overall gender equality has been set back by the pandemic. They found that globally it will push 47 million more people who identify as women and girls below the poverty line. However, there are organizations working to provide people with support and resources to tackle period poverty during the pandemic.

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