Written in collaboration with Biyung Indonesia
Menstruation is a very natural phase for those with a uterus to reproduce.
The need for a support system that supports these tasks should be guaranteed, similar to the need for necessities such as food, clothing and housing for each individual.
But the reality is quite the opposite. Referring to data on the Indonesian population groups based on expenditure levels (source: World Bank, January 2020):
|Monthly Expenditure (IDR)
|354,001 - 532,000
|532,001 - 1,200,000
|1,200,001 - 6,000,000
Based on this data, only about 20.5% of individuals have the ability and opportunity to get access to healthy menstrual rights and reproductive health. This includes access to education about menstruation, what to prepare for menarche (first menstruation) until menopause; basic information and knowledge about women's bodies; and how to manage painful or difficult periods. This means that 80% of girls in Indonesia are vulnerable to being in Period Poverty.
What is Period Poverty?
Period Poverty is a situation where women have difficulty or lack access to obtain the right to healthy menstruation, sexual health and reproductive health. Period Poverty is very real and happens around us, it can be to our neighbors, our relatives, our friends, or even ourselves.
Have you ever noticed how the women around you go about their periods?
Women in poor families can only use one menstrual pad per day because they don't have the money to buy enough menstrual pads. With an average salary of under Rp. 2,000,000 – 3,000,000 per month, the following is an example of their monthly expenditure:
- Food: 3x / day, Rp. 50,000 x 30 days = Rp. 1,500,000
- Housing: Rp. 700,000
- Gasoline, phone, electricity: Rp. 500,000
- Household self-care needs (soap, shampoo, tea, sugar, coffee) = Rp. 500,000
- Pay a motorbike loan / installment, etc. = Rp. 200,000
Total: More than Rp. 3.000.000!
How about those who have children or need to support their families? How can they also ensure they can afford nutritious food during menstruation to support their reproductive health?
The following is a typical story of a girl from a poor family…
Many of them admitted that during menstruation they chose not to go to school because they do not have enough menstrual pads. They are afraid to ask their parents for money to buy menstrual pads, because they know that their parents don't have any money. Or even if they do have menstrual pads, they are scared that their menstruation will leak through their clothes and that they will be bullied by their schoolmates. There is a high number of bullying incidences in schools related to teasing girls whose menstruation seeped through their school uniforms. There was a girl who was dragged by her classmates out of class, ridiculed and shouted at by her friends to clean the class chair that was stained with blood.
Likewise, when girls are menstruating, often they are still forced to participate in flag ceremonies or sports activities, even though they need to rest due to menstrual cramps and aches. If a girl requests to opt out of participating in these ceremonies or sports activities, the teacher will not believe it and check the girl’s underwear for blood!
This is also one of the reasons why girls' achievement in school is typically lower and they are unable to progress in school, because the number of class absences is a factor in assessing class grades. The domino effect is that many girls from underprivileged families do not continue their education through high school, and become underage laborers, or are married off.
In relation to child marriage, in some areas in Indonesia (especially remote and inland areas), the custom or tradition still applies that when a girl experiences her first menstruation it is time for them to be married off. Many girls also said that when they had their first menstruation, they did not tell their parents for fear of being married off.
Period poverty can also be seen from the condition of sanitation and clean water infrastructure in public places, such as schools, markets, community service offices in sub-districts or villages, or in dense urban settlements and villages.
Many women have difficulty changing their menstrual pads because the toilets are dirty and there is no clean water, they are unable to change their pads in public.
The lack of understanding about products and the choice of menstrual products, especially disposable menstrual pads, has caused many women to experience reproductive health problems due to the use of expired sanitary napkins. Many orphanages and people with disabilities have also complained about how many orphanages depend on receiving assistance with single-use product donations for their female residents. Many orphanages have difficulty ensuring the reproductive health of their residents, and face difficulties in managing the waste of single-use sanitary napkins that often clog toilets and sewers.
And in the villages, there are still many women who throw their sanitary napkins into the river for fear of others knowing that they are menstruating. This is due to the negative stigma surrounding menstruation.
Period Poverty is caused by:
- Discrimination against women and vulnerable groups
- Stigma and taboo surrounding menstruation is still strong in society
- Minimal to no education and access to information about reproductive health rights
- Land conversion, environmental damage and pollution, which cause women to lose access to proper water and sanitation sources
- Lack of implementation of policy (there is a law but it isn’t implemented nor enforced)
The ultimate solution to end Period Poverty:
- Education - Building awareness about the right to a healthy life and well-being for women and the preservation of planet earth
- Advocacy - To encourage the improvement of the health and welfare system for women and families
- Collaboration - Working together with various intersecting elements to take action
You are all invited to support Biyung's Perempuan Bantu Perempuan movement to STOP PERIOD POVERTY, for the good of women today, future generations and planet earth!
Nona December Giving Month for Biyung
This month, Nona is collecting donations for Biyung (@b.i.y.u.n.g) to fight against period poverty.
Biyung is a social organization focused on women's health and environmental sustainability. A portion of profits made from selling their batik cloth pads are used for women's empowerment advocacy and programs, including training in sewing cloth pads and providing them to vulnerable women in urban, rural areas and disabled girls in orphanages.
100% of the donations will go towards the pads' production and distribution. Our goal is to raise enough money for 1,250+ pads which can support 250 girls (5-6 pads/girl).
Happiness doesn’t come from what we receive, but from what we give. We hope you are as passionate about fighting period poverty as we are.
Read more about period poverty on Nona Woman's blogs: