The COVID-19 pandemic is deepening the global period poverty crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled numerous aspects of our lives, and quickly escalated into one of the most profound healthcare crises’ the world has faced to date. Whilst the health impact has been widely reported across the globe, we are also seeing alarming ripple effects of the pandemic in other areas, which are going unnoticed.
Growing pains - why is the problem escalating?
Through definition, period poverty is a global issue affecting billions of people who are not able to get access to period products, for financial mobility reasons or due to social mobility reasons. However, in practice, the issue perpetuates far deeper and has the capability to cripple individuals both mentally and physically, leaving a stark mark on their day to day lives.
Limited access to menstrual supplies has always been the bleak reality for many, but worryingly there has been a massive leap in period poverty during the Coronavirus pandemic. This has stemmed from the rise in unemployment figures, more people using food banks, closure of schools and educational institutions during lockdown.
Even in the 21st century, it’s not unusual for girls to miss school during their time of menstruation due to stigma and lack of support available, which deprives them of proper education. The pandemic has made this even more difficult to manage and has ultimately hindered their chances of academic success.
Six months down the line, reports are showing that the number of girls in the UK who can’t afford to buy period products has tripled since the start of lockdown. Of those, 54% said they had to use toilet paper instead.
As a business leader, a woman, and a mother, like many others in the FemTech sphere whose mission is to tackle such issues head on, these reports bring a great sense of sadness and disappointment. Why is so little being done to open the dialogue and equip our future female leaders with the knowledge about something that is so humanly normal like the menstruation cycle?
We must do more, not just as members of the society, but as leaders who have the platform to create wide scale change through shaping our business strategy and influencing wider political movements.
I started Modibodi in 2013, with the mission to break taboos, open minds and offer a reusable, sustainable option for sanitary and leak proof products that are not just for women - but for the benefit of all bodies on this planet.
From day one, I knew that our long-term business strategy must go beyond simply becoming successful commercially, we wanted to change lives of women around the world, and I want to urge others to follow suit.
This is why our business philosophy is based on empowerment, liberation and education by providing a more convenient, comfortable and sustainable solution that gives them sustainable alternative to start the conversation around taboos. The taboo surrounding ‘unmentionables’ is something that we are constantly trying to get everyone to engage in and destigmatise such as menstruation, incontinence and perspiration. Dialogue and conversation with action needs to happen for wide scale change to manifest itself, and it is now more important than ever.
An extension of this philosophy is to support the issues around women’s health and rights across the globe. In the UK, we’re partnered with Bloody Good Period, an organisation dedicated to fighting Period Poverty through providing 'a sustainable flow of menstrual protection for those who can’t afford it'. As a business we’ve committed to donating 300 pairs of our underwear each month to Bloody Good Period’s donation hubs.
We have also launched a flagship 'Give a Pair' programme, which aims to provide community members with Modibodi underwear that is sustainable and reusable. Every purchase helps a woman in need. We donate to charities locally and globally, and to date we’ve have donated over 22,000 pairs of underwear and we are committed to donating over 1,000 pairs per month.
On a large scale, to really fight against the crisis which we are facing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses must recognise the importance in raising awareness of issues such as period poverty, and take active and direct action as a collective to combat it in a multitude of ways. Whether it’s simply through raising awareness, influencing the political agenda to recognise the debate as important, or donating funds or resources, every action counts.
If each business committed a portion of their time or resources towards a cause that helps fight this crisis, the results would be unfathomable. Why wait?