eNCA, an African news network, published an article on March 9, 2017 about refugee women’s struggle with maintaining menstrual health. This has been a continuous struggle for refugees, and women across the world yet it is a topic that has only recently been been uncovered in the media. Periods are a natural process that is so often overlooked. While periods can identify with all dimensions in Global Health, ethics and responsibility are seen as the main area of need. The ethical and social responsibility around periods is to provide as many women as possible free pads, tampons, or other culturally appropriate forms of menstrual products. Period. Women should be given the power to conquer this natural phenomenon, not be conquered by it.
There is clear gain to society if all women are able to have access to menstrual products. They will be able to attend school and go to work without having to worry about leaking, being embarrassed, or even shunned. If men had their periods, would there even be a tampon tax? Would there even be a question about supplying products to all? The article states that many humanitarian programs are run by men, who often overlook periods or may not see it as a huge issue.
Another overlooked struggle that the article emphasizes is that refugees fleeing for their lives literally cannot carry enough products to be sufficient for them, as there can be weight limits on transportation. Women fleeing may very well have to dump what they use to be able to board a boat to get to safety. While these seem like dire situations, there are still thousands of women in seemingly less dire situations that are struggling with the same problems. A study mentioned in the article found that around 60% of women in Lebanon and Syria refugee camps did not have underwear. Where are the “dignity kits” that humanitarian aid programs are meant to provide these women? “Dignity kits” that mostly likely include underwear, soap, and culturally appropriate forms of sanitation products but these resources run out and may be inconsistent. There needs to be legislation in place that include sustainable “dignity kits” to women globally.
The global health significance of this news article is that when women are not able to access ways to control a natural bodily function, they can get infections from using unclean and used items. Not only will women be more prone to infections, they may also feel mentally affected by the stigma surrounding periods, which makes them not allowed to do normal everyday activities. I am surprised that the author does not mention that lack of access to water, safe facilities, and private spaces makes women much more vulnerable to physical and sexual assaulted.
The article mentions a refugee camp in Jordan that has created its own business that makes pads for women. This is where people get creative in how to provide for needs. If funding was available to open several factories in refugee camps across the world, we would be one step closer to alleviating this issue. There is no reason that women should not be able to access materials needed to be able to control their period. Money is needed to pay for products, but pads can also be handmade or made with sewing machines. An investment in a business for refugee camps to supply their own pads to women may be one of the most sustainable solutions.
While this article lays out facts and experiences of what women go through on their period, the author is also advocating and spreading the word about this problem so that more people understand the struggle the refugees and women across the world go through.