Menstruation is a natural experience for most girls and women, yet it is often associated with socially imposed taboos and shame.
“Period poverty” is a term that refers to a lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene products and so on.
And with the existing stigma on the matter, a woman’s inability to purchase these items will not only affect her physical health but her mental health and consequently her life as a whole.
Unknown to many, it is quite prevalent across the world with an estimated 500 million experiencing this phenomenon.
Well, a group of young people comprising the National Youth Parliament Association of Antigua and Barbuda (NYPAAB) think that the time is now to address the issue by providing feminine sanitary products to school students for free and starting an educational campaign within schools.
President of the association Kamalie Mannix, says that “It would go a long way in helping our young females to focus while actively learning and would assist in ensuring our women can walk with pride even when going through their menstrual cycle.”
The organisation has already begun drafting a bill called the Feminine Sanitary Products Bill with the aim of taking it before Parliament.
The piece of legislation will not only make sanitary products available to young women but also create spaces (Menstrual clinics) where they can address their menstrual issues without fear.
The Bill was the brainchild of Jahmaal Frederick a member of the group.
He said: “I had experiences where females told me the things, they had to go through just to get feminine products just because they didn’t have the finance that they need. So, I sat and I thought, how can I come up with something to help these females?’”
As a result, he thought of a way that women could have “full access to all their sanitary needs” for free in a “non-judgement [or] safe zone”.
Esquire Henry, the NYPAAB’s caretaker for All Saints East and St Luke and Fredericks team-mate for the construction of the bill expressed his passion for the issue.
“It is known that all around the world some females have to resort to using dirty rags, old t-shirts, tissue papers and so on. This can not only cause discomfort but may lead to other health issues. We must not allow this to be the case in Our twin island states, thus we must address period poverty with a matter of urgency,” he said.
In Antigua and Barbuda, feminine sanitary products are not price-controlled so businesses can price goods as they see fit.
In addition, sanitary napkins and tampons are the only feminine sanitary items where no tax is applied.
The young leaders are therefore appealing for a price cap on all sanitary products to be instituted.