Period poverty — an often overlooked aspect of poverty that affects the lives of girls and women of menstruating age. Speaking from cultural terms, women are ostracised and isolated from the society during their menstruation days because they are deemed as “unclean”. They are prevented from basic activities and socialising, due to a deep sense of cultural shame for something that comes naturally. This further prevents women from going to school and work every day, unfortunately. Well, period poverty, to sum it up, is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, hand-washing facilities and, or, waste management.
In a country like Malaysia, one might disregard the existence of period poverty but in reality, this mindset is part of a utopian nation. Many women are still unable to afford sanitary napkins and are instead, forced to resort to other unhygienic methods to absorb the menstrual blood such as using a piece of cloth. This opens up the possibility of getting infected.
Period products are being sold at exorbitant prices due to additional taxes imposed or in other words, the pink tax, where women-specific products are more expensive than men’s. Last year, Scotland became the first country to make period products free. Definitely, other countries are taking a step forward in the right direction by providing subsidies for sanitary products but nothing tops Scotland’s efforts in eradicating period poverty.
In Malaysia, just recently, a Twitter user shared her heartbreaking encounter with a girl who was experiencing period poverty. The user, @thaarshny stated that she saw a girl standing outside 99 Speedmart and appeared to be completely lost so, she went up to the girl and asked her if she was okay. The girl said that she could not afford to buy a sanitary pad and she was having her period.
So I went to 99 speedmart to get some stuffs. I noticed a malay girl standing outside the mart who appeared to be completely lost. I had just gone in, gotten my belongings, and was on my way back to my car and then, I saw the little girl again.
— 𝒯 (@thaarshny) August 22, 2021
The Twitter user then went and bought it for her without thinking twice. Apparently, the girl’s house was right behind the mart and her mother is currently, at the quarantine centre. Her grandmother is the one taking care of her siblings and herself. Unfortunately, the grandmother can’t afford the sanitary pads despite the 12-year-old girl being in terrible pain. After this incident, however, tons of people have given financial aid and help to the girl and her family.
Vice President and Co-founder of Parti MUDA, Dr Thanussha Francis Xavier has responded to this tweet by saying, “Period poverty is real.”
Period poverty is real. https://t.co/TjMFdCdeiQ
— Dr Thanussha 🏴🇲🇾 (@DrThanussha) August 23, 2021
Nevertheless, it’s high time the Malaysian government takes heed of the calls to stop period poverty in this country. Pink taxes are not reasonable and should be removed too. Let’s just hope the situation could be improved.