In the vibrant streets of Accra, where warm smiles and lively culture abound, there exists a silent struggle that touches the lives of countless women and girls each month: period poverty. This pervasive issue denies them the basic human right to manage their menstruation with dignity. It's time to shed light on the challenges faced by our sisters in Ghana and ignite the flame for change.
by Jeanine Appiah
The Silent Struggle of Period Poverty
Ghana imposes some of the highest taxes on menstrual hygiene products globally, placing them out of reach for many who desperately need them. The consequence? Girls missing school for days each month, facing a myriad of challenges from lack of access to safe menstrual materials to water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. Period poverty, driven by financial constraints, becomes a vicious cycle, intertwining with education and facilities for hygienic period management.
The Multifaceted Challenge: A Vicious Cycle of Poverty and Education
The issue of poverty in Ghana is like a web, woven with threads of limited access to quality education, inadequate healthcare, agricultural challenges, income inequality, and governance inefficiencies. This intricate tapestry of challenges doesn't just affect the economic landscape but extends its reach into the very core of societal norms and cultural taboos surrounding menstruation.
In Nepal and India, the cultural restrictions on women during their periods are not just about superstitions; they're about deep-seated beliefs that link menstruation to bad luck, impacting daily life and livelihoods. Meanwhile, in Bolivia, girls face the grim belief that their period blood can cause serious illnesses, fostering ignorance that perpetuates shame and further compounds the struggles faced by women and girls in their everyday lives.
The Education Dilemma: A Cycle of Despair
In the bustling streets of Accra, period poverty unveils itself as a significant contributor to menstruation-related school absenteeism. National surveys lay bare the stark reality, with absenteeism rates ranging from 19% to 40% in various regions. But the roots of this issue delve even deeper into the soil of poverty, where the lack of clean water, soap, privacy, and dustbins in schools exacerbates the challenge.
Poverty, in a large part, is due to limited access to quality education. Ironically, this poverty, in turn, becomes a barrier to education. Girls, already grappling with economic constraints, face a heart-wrenching dilemma. The inability to afford essential menstrual hygiene products forces them to miss even more school. It's a vicious cycle where poverty and education are inextricably linked, each perpetuating the other.
The ripple effect is profound – girls missing school due to period poverty find themselves caught in a cycle that denies them the opportunities for a better future. As education slips through their fingers, the chains of poverty tighten their grip, creating a seemingly insurmountable barrier to progress.
Breaking the Chains: A Call for Holistic Change
To truly address the multifaceted challenge at hand, we must recognize the interconnectedness of poverty and education. It's not enough to provide access to quality education; we must break down the barriers that hinder it, including the pervasive issue of period poverty.
Empowering girls with education is not just about academic knowledge; it's about breaking the cycle of poverty, dismantling cultural taboos, and fostering a society where menstruation is understood, accepted, and managed with dignity. As we strive for change, let's not only focus on providing menstrual hygiene products but also on creating an environment where education becomes a beacon of hope, breaking the chains that bind generations to poverty.
The call to action is clear – a holistic approach that addresses poverty, education, and menstrual hygiene is essential. Only through comprehensive change can we hope to break the cycle and pave the way for a brighter, more equitable future for the girls of Ghana.
As a passionate advocate with Freedom Voice, an NGO nonprofit, our mission is clear: break the chains of period poverty in Ghana. While building new bathrooms and rewriting laws may take time, we can make a difference through strategic and realistic approaches.
Our focus lies on receiving donations to provide women with essential menstrual products, running campaigns to petition for legislative changes, organizing lectures and workshops, and advocating for policies that address period poverty. Small steps, we believe, can lead to significant change.
A Call to Action
Why should anyone care? Because the absence of menstrual products impacts more than just personal comfort—it affects education, health, and the overall well-being of women and girls. It's time to rally together, to raise awareness, to challenge societal norms, and to break the stigma surrounding menstruation.
Period poverty is not just a Ghanaian issue; it's a global challenge that demands our attention. The time for change is now. Let's ensure that no girl in Ghana, or anywhere else, has to compromise her education, health, or dignity because of a natural biological process. Together, we can break the chains of period poverty and empower our sisters to face their future with strength and pride. The call to action is loud and clear – let's answer it together.