By Latrishka Thomas
Across the globe, there are women and girls who struggle to manage their ‘time of the month’ simply because they are unable to afford the cost of basic menstrual care.
This is not just a potential health risk: it can also mean girls’ education, well-being, and sometimes entire lives are affected.
The National Youth Parliament Association of Antigua and Barbuda (NYPAAB) believes it is time to address this problem in the twin island nation, particularly amongst school-aged females.
They are calling on the government “to assist in providing sanitary items to young women within the public school system, or look at ways to reduce the cost of sanitary items”, President of the association Kamalie Mannix said.
Esquire Henry, the NYPAAB’s caretaker for All Saints East and St Luke, also appealed to the authorities, as he pointed out how dire the situation can be.
“I am calling on the government of Antigua and Barbuda to make feminine sanitary products more accessible for the poor, and gear themselves up for making menstrual items entirely free in the future.
“It is important that these products be made available to women who are experiencing financial instability as well as homeless individuals,” he said.
“This will allow them at the very least to practice good hygiene. It is known that all around the world some females have to resort to using dirty rags, old T-shirts, tissue paper, and so on.
“This cannot only cause discomfort but may lead to other health issues. We must not allow this to be the case in our twin island state; thus we must address period poverty with a matter of urgency.”
At present, feminine sanitary products do not come under the country’s price control machinery. That means that supermarkets, pharmacies and other businesses can mark them up as much as they like.
Furthermore, sanitary napkins and tampons are the only feminine sanitary items where no tax is applied. Mannix is therefore suggesting that a price cap on all sanitary products could be instituted.
“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,” he added.
Furthermore, the youth lead organisation is calling for students to be educated about menstrual hygiene since this plays a major part in addressing period poverty.
“Firstly, we want our females to fully understand what they will [and/or] are currently experiencing, and the best practices to optimise their hygiene. We also want them to be comfortable discussing menstruation to tackle the broader problem of period poverty.
“Secondly, it is critical that our young males not mock women when they go through menstruation but instead serve as a nurturing figure and be empathetic about the issue. One way this can be achieved is through education and workshops,” he remarked.
The NYPAAB is leading the charge towards mitigating period poverty in other ways too.
The organisation will be donating sanitary items to a few public schools, drafting and debating a Bill that addresses the issue with the hopes of it reaching to the government, and also engaging in activities geared towards bringing awareness to the issue of period poverty.