Blog/Opinion

How does period poverty have a negative effect on teenage girls?

Author:
Olivia Miller
Source:
Action Aid
Contributor:
Publication Year:
2021
May 25, 2022

For teenage girls, having access to period products is essential. Without them, they can miss school, be embarrassed and humiliated, and even get health problems. Unfortunately, many girls around the world face what is known as "period poverty." This means they cannot afford to buy period products or do not have access to them. As a result, they suffer in silence.

Clearly, period poverty has a serious impact on teenage girls. It prevents them from going to school, and participating in sports and social activities, and can cause health problems. They may also find it difficult to talk to their parents or friends about their feelings around periods, leaving them with a sense of shame and isolation. Here, we go deeper into how these issues can affect teenage girls, and what can be done to help.

 

Health issues

 

Period poverty can lead to physical health problems. Without access to pads or tampons, girls may resort to using dirty rags or leaves during their periods. This can cause infections and other medical problems, especially in countries where female genital mutilation (FGM) still takes place. There are also many girls in the world who do not have access to clean water, making it difficult for them to hygienically manage their period. 

Additionally, girls who cannot afford period products may try to prolong their periods by skipping meals or taking medication. This can lead to anemia and other health problems, as well as a negative attitude towards food.

Period poverty can also negatively affect mental health, with women who suffer from period poverty being more likely to report moderate to severe depression. Teen girls in particular may also feel isolated and lonely if they can’t talk to anyone about what they’re experiencing – especially at a time when they are likely to be heavily influenced by the opinions of their peers.

 

Education

 

Girls who cannot access sanitary items may be unable to attend school, as they don’t want to risk bleeding through their clothes. Or, they may avoid attending due to a lack of facilities for changing to fresh period products, or because they struggle with painful headaches or cramps.

They can also fear being teased or suffering as a result of negative stigma. In some countries or areas of society, there are outdated myths around periods, such as women being unclean, or not being able to cook when menstruating, as they’ll poison the food. 

Even if they aren’t exposed to anything this situation-specific, they may fear being treated differently when on their period, as some people believe that women are moody or irrational during this time. If the stigma is bad enough, it may even stop some girls from leaving the house when they’re menstruating.

 

Exercise

 

In addition to missing out on school, girls who cannot afford period products also miss out on other opportunities. They may be too embarrassed to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities, whether that’s because of not wanting to get changed in front of others, or because they are worried about leaking. 

This is a problem because regular exercise is essential for good health. It helps to keep our hearts and lungs healthy, reduces stress levels, and can even improve our moods. Girls who miss out on exercise due to period poverty may therefore be at risk for poor health in the future. They may also miss out on the natural social aspect of team sport, which can make them feel isolated.

 

What can be done to help?

 

There are a number of ways to help reduce period poverty, such as providing free or reduced-cost hygiene products at schools. By increasing access to these products, we can help ensure that all girls have the opportunity to lead active and healthy lives.

 

Schools should also make sure that girls have a clean, private place where girls can change their sanitary items. This shouldn’t just be in secondary school either – some girls can start their period in primary school, so it’s important that they are supported from the start. 

 

To sum up

 

Period poverty is a real and pressing issue, one that has far-reaching consequences for teenage girls. It’s everyone’s responsibility to address period poverty and try to make a difference.

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