Research Finds That 1 in 5 Aussies Have Had to Improvise on Period Products Due to the Cost

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Have you ever wondered how you would pay for your period products? Chances are, you’ve probably never struggled to purchase pads or tampons. This isn’t the reality for so many people, as shown in a new world-first report that has highlighted the prevalence of period poverty in Australia.

The Period Pride report, which includes responses from 125,205 Australians, found that one in five people who menstruate has had to improvise on period products due to the cost. This means, instead of using a pad, tampon or period cup, they are forced to use other items like rolled-up toilet paper or socks.

This is known as period poverty — when a person can’t afford the most basic of essentials to be able to deal with their period. The research also found that close to half of respondents (49 percent) admitted to wearing a pad or tampon for more than four hours as they didn’t have enough products to get by.

Share the Dignity, an Australian charity that distributes period products to make a real, on the ground difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, or doing it tough, launched the report and even the organisation’s founder and managing director, Rochelle Courtenay, was shocked by the results.

“We expected to see that shame and stigma surrounding periods still exists, but we couldn’t have predicted the sheer number of people who have struggled to afford period products,” Courtenay said in a press release. “It’s not just about using toilet paper either, it’s about not having access to period products when you need them – whether that’s changing to a less suitable but more affordable product or asking a friend to purchase products for you.

“This experience is more common than we thought, but not spoken about enough. It’s likely that you, your mum, aunty, friend, or colleague has found themselves in a situation like this. No person should ever go without these essentials.”  

The research also uncovered that many students don’t attend school while they have their period, with 46 percent of respondents admitting to skipping school for at least an entire day because of it. 74% of respondents also said that they found it difficult to pay attention and 46% said it didn’t allow them to perform their best.

For those engaged in work, 40 percent said they had called in sick because of their period, with 24 percent saying that staying home is the only option due to period symptoms such as pain, headaches and nausea.

“Some respondents started their period as early as 10 or younger, so this shows that we need to have an open dialogue around menstruation much earlier – not at age 11 or 12 as is the current approach in the school curriculum,” Courtenay said.

“Schools need to be better equipped to promote menstrual health, normalise periods, and mitigate the potential negative impact on young peoples’ education.”

So, how can you help to change these stats? Courtenay says that we have to start lobbying officials to make it easier for menstruating people to access period products in public settings like schools and hospitals. You can also lend a hand by participating in Share the Dignity’s bi-annual Dignity Drive, which takes place throughout August and collects and distributes period products to those in need.

“Our initial focus will be to ensure that students from primary to tertiary have access to sanitary items and education around menstruation,” Courtenay said. “We will continue to lobby for hospitals across Australia to make sanitary items accessible through our #paduppublichealth campaign and encourage Australians to donate products where they can. Together, we can all work towards ending the shame and stigma around menstruation in Australia and beyond.”

To find your nearest Dignity Drive collection point, head to the Share the Dignity website. Woolworths stores are also collecting period products on behalf of Share the Dignity from August 4, so consider making a donation during your weekly shop.

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