Anyone who understands the width and breadth of the conversation about access to sanitary products is unlikely to meet it with derision or disdain. New Zealand President, Jacinda Ardern is one such person.
New Zealand has joined a presently tiny, albeit growing, number of countries working to ensure free access to sanitary products for women and girls.
Last year, Scotland became the first country in the world to make access to sanitary products free for women and girls in a policy move that sought to tackle period poverty and its hydra-headed effect in the country. New Zealand is now the second country in the world to do something similar, with the country’s president echoing this while talking about the policy; something many in the know already deeply understand.
“Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population,” the BBC quoted her as saying.
The policy for New Zealand is essentially to make access to sanitary products easy for young girls, tackling the aspect of “the effect of period poverty on education for young women.”
For Scotland, which still stands as the lone country in the world where free access to sanitary pad is a legal right, the aim tackles head-on, all the implications of period poverty, with the pandemic as perhaps, the driving force behind the need to do so.
Period poverty is when people in the low-income bracket can’t afford or access necessary period products. The implication, in addition to posing a health risk, also means that the education of women and girls is at risk for a huge chunk of their lives.
Africa, which is home to over 1.3 billion of the world’s population is also home to a staggering 130 million girls who can’t go to school because they can’t afford sanitary products. As with everything economical, the pandemic has worsened this problem for women and girls across the world.
The Scotland solution addressed that problem and the problem of period shaming, but like New Zealand, it also addresses, in the long run, the effect of period poverty on the education of women and girls.
The conversation, in Africa, has not yet arrived at the Scotland solution.
While many non-governmental organisations are in the thick of efforts to address the problem of period poverty, governments are yet to catch on across the continent.
The Scotland solution is the ideal, but for now, the New Zealand solution is a perfect template and overall the easiest and perhaps, most impactful solution that could change the game for gender parity in the continent over time.
It is worth emulating.