When walking down the aisles of any CVS, Walgreens, or local pharmacy, one typically sees that the shelves are packed with products after products. Today, if one were to walk down the feminine hygiene aisle, the gaping holes between sanitary products would seem jarring and unfamiliar; this is due to a recent economic phenomenon known as the “supply chain crisis”. The supply chain crisis has halted the production of many types of products, but women have been disproportionately affected by the limited access to necessary products that are required to take care of a normal part of female life: periods. On top of supply chain issues, the raw materials needed to create feminine hygiene products, such as cotton and plastic, are also experiencing a shortage, making it harder for manufacturers to combat both supply chain problems and the lack of resources.1 What this means for women everywhere is that if these issues persist, then companies will choose to make feminine products more expensive to compensate for the lack of supply, adding onto an already 10.8% increase in the price of sanitary products compared to a year ago.2 By raising the prices, companies are exacerbating the inequality that women face when trying to get the fundamental products that pertain to their health. While the shortage may be causing greater issues today, the lack of equitable access to feminine hygiene products has existed for a long time, not only within the United States, but around the world.
“Period poverty” is the term used to describe the lack of access to period products that women have been experiencing for many years.3 While unable to obtain the essential products to combat menstrual cycles, the knowledge and support needed to help young women learn about menstrual periods has also been limited, with over 50% of girls worldwide having limited access to “menstrual health facilities.”4 In order to target this particular issue that women face, WE Restore, a program from WE International, has created the Feminine Hygiene Initiative (FHI) in order to educate women and girls in Uganda on the vital tools needed to effectively manage their menstrual cycle.
The FHI focuses on the education of feminine health for women and girls and helps to provide products to women in a sustainable way. In terms of education, women are instructed through various lesson plans on menstruation, feminine hygiene, and safe sex education.5 The targeting of women’s education through this initiative is important because young Ugandan girls are facing increasing issues of “…early pregnancies…sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, and sexual based violence.”6 When affected by these issues, the development of education for young girls can be compromised because a lack of knowledge on feminine health as well as limited access to products can lead to girls falling behind and/or dropping out of school.7 The FHI is vehemently focused on making sure that girls are educated on all of these issues in order to learn more about their bodies and how to best care for them. The education of feminine health is the stepping stone to gaining more access to products for girls and limiting the amount of health issues that women experience when uneducated on their own reproductive systems.
While providing education on women’s health is an integral part of FHI, another vital part is access to affordable and sustainable sanitary products.8 Since feminine hygiene products can be expensive and limited, especially in rural communities, the FHI helps girls learn how to make reusable sanitary products. Not only are reusable sanitary products a more sustainable way to manage periods, but the versatility of the product makes it less expensive for girls and women and gives them greater access to the care that they need. The FHI is truly an empowering initiative. By donating to the Female Hygiene Initiative, you can make a difference in the safety and education of the women and girls WE International serves.
- Written by Caitlin Kulperger, Intern
Endnotes – Further Reading
- Morrow, Allison. “A Tampon Shortage Is the Latest Nightmare for Women | CNN Business.” CNN, Cable News Network, 10 June 2022, www.cnn.com/2022/06/10/business/tampon-shortage-amy-schumer-tampax/index.html.
- Semuels, Alana. “The Great Tampon Shortage of 2022: The Supply Chain Problem No One is Talking About.” Time, Time, 7 June 2022, time.com/6184644/tampon-shortage-supply-chain/.
- Semuels, Alana. “The Great Tampon Shortage of 2022.”
- Birech, Jeniffer. “Innovative Ways of Dealing with Menstrual Health among the Marginalized Communities in Kenya.” Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, 25 Feb. 2019, pp. 265–274., doi:10.14738/assrj.62.6168.
- “We Restore – Sexual Based Violence.” WE International, Inc., 22 Mar. 2022, weinternational.org/pf/we-restore/.
- Nozawa, Mina. “The Government of Uganda Launches the National Sexuality Education Framework.” UNFPA Uganda, 11 May 2018, uganda.unfpa.org/en/news/government-uganda-launches-national-sexuality-education-framework.
- We Restore – Sexual Based Violence
- We Restore – Sexual Based Violence