Inclusive and Accessible Menstrual Hygiene Products

Executive Summary

Throughout the world, there are problems related to accessibility and affordability of menstrual health materials.  The questions are caused due to ignorance o the policymakers on the matters pertaining the menstrual health. Various campaigns, such as a campaign against the “Tampon Tax,” have led to the formulation of policies meant to better menstrual health. However, the policies formulated are not sufficient. This research proposes approaches that can better the availability and affordability of menstrual health products.

Scope of The Problem

In the world today, matters relating to women’s materials during the menstrual period continue to be ignored in making policies. The policies already set concerning pads and tampons include sanitary products as an allowable expense in shelters and other emergency locations. The products remain largely unavailable for the women in the incarceration center. The acknowledgment of the need for menstruation hygiene products as a problem has recently been accepted and addressed in America’s united states. A survey conducted in Missouri in 2019 found out that more than nearly seventy percent of the women in the area could not afford the menstrual products they required in the previous years. Women from humble backgrounds, those in the marginalized areas, the homeless, and the imprisoned suffered the most. The homeless, for example, was said to use the tampons longer than should. Some of them were even said to use materials such as paper bags (Upadhye, 2016). The women in the prisons suffered more as they had to beg for the material from the wardens for the pads and the tampons, which is humiliating and shows the failure of the government to provide the primary material for the inmates.

The menstrual hygiene products are not catered for by the public health and nutritional benefits programs. The actions taken by the health institutions and other stakeholders have been short term and in response to the death caused by high absorbant tampoons. Reports given by Food and Drugs Administration showed there was toxicity in the fiber and the chemicals that are used to make tampons. This led to the Tampon Safety and Research Act introduction, which was introduced by Carolyne Maloney. The act was meant to research potentially dangerous substances on the materials used to make pads and tampons. The act further required transparency of the research’s results. The act, however, was not a success. Carolyne later renamed the act to Robin Danielson Act after a lady who passed away following Toxic Shock Syndrome.

The products are not readily available in place of work and schools. In southern Asia, most girls fail to attend school due to the lack of the appropriate materials required for hygiene during their menstruation. The same problem is experienced in India, with less than 20 people in the rural area and 50% in the urban area having access to menstrual hygiene products. In the research conducted on 693 women attending school in the united state concerning the availability of restoration health products and their impact, various reports were available. It was found that more than 92% of the girls required the menstrual product while at school. Of this, only 42% of them attended institutions where the products were provided for free, while most were required to pay for the pads and tampons. 12% of the ladies have missed school due to lack of the products,24% have been forced to go home early, while 15% have gone attended school late. Some of the students reported that they could not concentrate due to lack of proper menstrual products, while 7% had health issues related to this matter. The study concluded a strong relationship between the availability of the menstrual product to truancy, attending school late or early arrival, and inability to learn.

Despite the advances that have taken place in human lives, it is challenging that women continue to be paid less amount compared to men. There is a gap of 20% between men and women regarding the payment made to women since they only receive 80% of what men earn. The opening is higher for women of color. The gap between the women and the men is further widened by the maternity leave where in-country like the united states, women are not mandated to receive maternity leave. This makes it unfair for the ladies, especially with the pink taxes they have to pay. This includes taxes charged on items that the women use throughout their lives, such as shampoo, labor clothes, drycleaning. The pink tax is around forty thousand dollars for women under the age of 35, while those in their 60s pay upto eighty-two thousand dollars (Weiss-Wolf, 2020). Of interest, especially to the activist, have been the taxes charged on the mistral health products.

Sales tax has exempted things which are considered not luxuries such as medical prescription and groceries. There is no such exemption for menstrual hygiene products, which are an essential requirement for the ladies. Most people did not consider it a problem until there was a campaign n against the tampon tax in 2015 to “stop taxing our periods.”  Which was meant to make amends on the policies made so that the mistral hygiene products could not only be exempted from taxation but for the products to bed made available and affordable to women, which drew the attention of the state, federal and local advocate who joined the campaign to ensure that the product was tax-free. Furthermore, the inconsistent in the classification of this product’s tax has made it impossible to include the flexible spending allowance account and health saving work.

The policies made by US government agencies concerning menstruation products are inconsistent and dangerous to women. The National government is, for example, required to approve and provides information on the material used in making menstrual products through the FDA. Despite being entrusted to give the results of the menstrual products, the FDA offers substandard results since there are no strict policies set by the government  (USUS Food and Drug Administration 2014. FDA is only required to provide information on how to use menstrual hygiene products and the adverse effects. They are not required to give the results they obtain from testing or the used ingredients. Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) in the department of labor in the united states set out the employers’ policies to provide the employees with places were safe, sanitary toilets, and materials for washing and drying. Though included in the disposal policies required, OSHA’s needs are ignored since the products are not added to the list of hygienic requirements.

Policy Alternatives and Recommendations

The price of menstrual products like sanitary pads remains to be overrated, and the trend seems to increase over time. Some of the factors influencing the rising curve include the high taxation of import goods related to the menstrual products or the raw materials used in their manufacture. The government should enforce policies that remove the taxes associated with menstrual products. High taxes for the menstrual products or the raw materials used to manufacture menstrual products consequently increase these products’ price, making them affordable and inaccessible to most of the girls. Removing the taxes on the menstrual products and other related materials would reduce the menstrual products’ prices.

It is surprising that even at this age and era, there still exists a significant degree of stigma surrounding menstruation in the world (Shrestha). My belief is no woman or girl, for that matter, should lack access to menstrual products for any reason. One of the significant barriers to accessing menstrual products is finances. Even today, there is a massive gap between the amount of earning between women and men. Research shows that women earn twenty percent less than the amount made by men. This illustrates a huge gap that has been affected by several factors, among them being the household and familial responsibilities.

Women experience a challenge as they take maternity leaves and breaks, which affects their employment period’s consistency. Most of these women are single parents and have the financial burden of taking care of their families alone and without any help (Shepherd-Banigan). However, the amount of money they earn is sometimes not enough to take care of all needs, yet some female teenagers and girls depend on the same parent. There is a need to make all menstrual products accessible to all girls regardless of the financial state of their family background or any other factor related to finances. We are not saying that this policy is not already in place. There are some countries like Scotland where the ‘Period Products Bill’ was passed to make menstrual products free and accessible to all girls in the country. The government started by giving free menstrual products like sanitary pads to girls within the learning institutions like schools and colleges.

Similarly, in New York City, a unanimous bill was passed that advocated for the city to provide menstrual products like tampons and pads to all public schools, jails, and even the homeless shelters on a free basis. “The bill, spearheaded by Council member Julissa Ferrreras-Copeland, would make tampons and pads available to 300000 girls ages 11 to 18 as well as 23, 000 women and girls in shelters”(Vox). Therefore, we are not trying to propose a new policy. However, the purpose or the idea of this argument is that providing free menstrual products should be adopted not only by New York City and Scotland alone but by all states and nations. After all, it has been done, and the policy has worked in Scotland as a country; therefore, why would it not function as an international policy.

Similarly, in the United States, the policy is both successful and effective, and this shows that all states could adopt the system to provide free menstrual products like pads to young girls in schools. However, the policy should not only be limited to young girls in schools only. It should be cutting edge across all levels, to all girls, regardless of their location. For instance, the marginalized communities, like the immigrant populations, experience high levels of poverty. The girls and women in these communities are unable to access proper healthcare services and vital services. Similarly, menstrual products for young girls pause a challenge in terms of accessibility. There should be campaigns advocating for increased accessibility to these products across the minorities and marginalized communities.

The United States remains one of the few developed countries that do not compensate women for maternity leaves or when they take breaks from employment to uphold their familial responsibilities, like taking care of children (Shepherd-Banigan). This factor positively contributes to poverty and especially among the low-income single-parent families. The policy of compensating women and young mothers, among other poverty reduction policies, would mean that young girls within those families would have access to menstrual pads.

Menstrual issues are not issues of only girls and women, but only within society. Periods constitute a humanitarian crisis. The United Nations declared in 2014 that menstrual hygiene is a public health problem. Many individuals do not have access to their periods to the proper hygiene, resources, and support they need. Furthermore, not every woman gets her period, and not every woman who gets a period deems herself a woman. Transgender men can still get their periods, just as there might not be periods for transgender women. If sanitary products were available in the boys’ bathroom, a transgender man may feel more comfortable. Menstruation is not always just a matter of a “woman.” It is a matter of humanity. As such, policies that create advocacy campaigns for increased awareness and education are essential. The movements would also help girls and LGBT communities experience stigma and other related issues to acknowledge that menstrual cycles are regular and vital to their health. In that manner, the debates about menstrual products would be more open to involving them, especially in decision making.

Many young girls experience a lot of hardships and especially during the initial stages of menstrual cycles.  These issues range from the access of menstrual products to their disposal. Therefore, the government policymakers should pass legislation that focuses on the disposal methods and manner of menstrual products. For instance, the government can pass laws instituting that every institution should have a clearly defined disposal system or procedure for used menstrual products. The use of recyclable and specially designated menstrual bins collected periodically for disposal by the government would be one such strategy. Every residence should also have containers or pit-latrines where those products are disposed of.

Another significant policy would be the development of Menstrual Health Clinics that specialize solely on menstrual health issues. The clinics would be comprised of highly qualified professionals in menstrual health. This would serve as a haven for the girls, especially when they experience stigmatization or have trouble accessing menstrual products, for instance, tampons and sanitary pads. 

Counterfeit goods and products have been significant issues affecting the value of goods in the markets and, consequently, the whole economy. This problem has also affected products like foodstuffs and menstrual products, for instance, tampons and sanitary pads. The problem is low quality, substandard, or expired menstrual products affect menstrual health. There should be policies, therefore, to counter this issue. Most importantly, there should be a legal framework that is solely dedicated to inspecting the menstrual products and ensuring that they meet the quality standards.

Lastly, menstruation is part of every girl’s life. No girl or woman deserves or should be discriminated against or stigmatized based on their menstrual health. Ironically, voting is a right that is entitled to every mature citizen. Similarly, the right and freedom of religious beliefs and worship are equally guaranteed in the Declaration of Human Rights. These rights are not directly associated with human health, yet they are referred to as ‘inherent entitlements.’ However, menstrual issues are not discussed anywhere by such bodies, yet they are very significant to the girls’ physical, social, and psychological well-being. I believe that this issue surpasses most other non-detrimental provisions that have no direct influence on girls’ health. Therefore, legislation should protect menstrual problems, making it an absolute right to every girl and defending it under the law. Thus, other international bodies like the United Nations should form partnerships with all nations to create a relevant body solely dedicated to menstrual issues and products. In that manner, it would bring relevant stakeholders to make appropriate policies and have the best interest of all girls.

The issue of menstrual products and menstrual health continues to persist within society. Therefore, it has sparked a lot of debates regarding the topic and has led to the formulation of policies that are aimed at addressing these issues. However, the current systems are inadequate to solve some of these challenges, such as the high cost and stigma associated with menstrual health. As such, there is a need for more appropriate and effective policies like Menstrual Health Clinics. The government should also take up the costs of menstrual products to make them accessible to all girls. Disposal strategies should also be formulated to cause their disposal easy and thus curb related stigma.

Work Cited

https://www.vox.com/2016/6/22/12005866/free-tampons-pads-in-new-york-city
Shepherd-Banigan, Megan, and Janice F. Bell. " Paid leave benefits among a national sample of working

mothers with infants in the United States." Maternal and child health journal 18.1 (2014): 286-295.

Shrestha, Vinish, and Rashesh Shrestha. " Social stigma, group awareness, and demand for health product: The case of sanitary pads." (2020).

Upadhye, Janet. 2016. “This Is How Homeless Women Cope with Their Periods.” Bustle, October 18. https://www.bustle.com/articles/190092-this-is-how-homeless-women-cope-with-their-periods.

US Food and Drug Administration. 2014. “Classify Your Medical Device.” Updated, July 29. https://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/DeviceRegulationandGuidance/Overview/ClassifyYourDevice/default.htm.

Weiss-Wolf, J. (2020). US US Policymaking to Address Menstruation: Advancing an Equity Agenda. The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies, 539–549. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-0614-7_41

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