Tampons, pads and bling-bling
Polished sports cars, sparkling diamond necklaces and gold-plated teeth: musicians not only like to show off their artistic skills in their videos, but also their bank accounts. The more bling-bling the better because status symbols are essential for street credibility.
But what if it's not the Tesla that represents your bank account, but a tampon? What if wearing a sanitary napkin reflects a person’s financial situation better than wearing fur?
Do I buy hygiene products or food? As soon as we must consider one or the other, we talk about period poverty. And against many expectations, it exists in nations where you can find many sports cars or diamond necklaces. In Germany, for example, around 100,000 people who menstruate and who are without shelter or housing do not have enough money to afford menstrual products. For them, tampons are a luxury item. Similar figures come from Great Britain, according to a study by Plan International: 1 in 10 underage menstruators cannot afford period products. Due to this, many of them choose not to attend school out of shame during their period. As a result, not only do grades suffer, but also the self-confidence of thousands of young menstruators.
The taboo surrounding menstruation doesn’t make it any easier to combat period poverty. In Germany, only 1 in 5 menstruating women have ever talked to their partner about their periods. Tampons are still smuggled out of the bag when needed, like drugs, so that no one sees them. But as soon as we as a society can break the silence surrounding periods, can we also manage to fight period poverty.
While signatures are still being collected for a similar model in Germany, in 2020, Scotland became the first country in the world to respond to period poverty with a law: local authorities and public buildings are required to provide menstrual items free of charge. According to one forecast, this will reach around 18,800 low-income menstruators.
The Berlin-based association Social Period e.V. is not waiting for German politics to follow suit, they campaign for freely accessible tampons and sanitary pads for homeless menstruators through donations. The collected period products are taken directly to overnight shelters and emergency accommodation by volunteers. The high demand confirms the need for action.
Every project, every commitment, every educational work and every open conversation about periods helps to ensure that menstrual products will soon no longer have to be a luxury item or status symbol for anyone. A goal that we can all help with and something that would be more valuable to our society than any diamond necklace could ever be.
Check out some period products that are giving back.
Author: Jakob Leitenmeier
CEO and Founder of TAMTAM - a unisex tampon fashion label celebrating periods.
Sources: Plan International UK, Plan International UK's Research on Period Poverty and Stigma, 2017; Social Period Organization; The Borgen Project; Stern, "Wann Müssen sich Frauen endlich nicht mehr für ihre Periode schämen?", 2018
Petition for freely accessible period products in Germany: change.org