|Dominika Kulczyk attends a lesson on menstruation in Nepal/ courtesy of Kulczyk Foundation|
In India, 78%of women cannot afford menstrual products and between 6% and 43% say they missed school or work due to menstruation. Even in the UK, a recent report by Plan International UK revealed that 3 in 10 girls struggle to afford or access sanitary wear.
around 500 million people lack complete menstrual health and hygiene, something
the world calls period poverty, according to UNICEF.
Harmful stigma, lack of access to toilets and water, lack of education or not being able to afford tampons and pads cause millions of girls and women worldwide to miss out on education, job opportunities and quality of life. And Covid-19 is making things worse.
Yet, despite growing attention over the past few years, period poverty remains massively neglected.
That a fundamentally basic need can be so challenging in 2020 is astounding. Why is more not being done?
This is a question Dominika Kulczyk wanted to address. She is a philanthropist, entrepreneur and a journalist – and also Poland’s richest woman.
“As a journalist and film director, I have seen the devastating impact of period poverty first-hand. If you are made to feel ashamed of your body, struggle because of the stigma, if you cannot attend school or go to work because your clothes are red, then you cannot participate fully in society,” Kulczyk says.
“Access to complete menstrual health and hygiene is a basic human right. Without it, women and girls cannot pursue full lives with dignity and confidence. It is deeply unfair that girls in all parts of the world miss out on better education, and women on work, because they were too poor to have a period.”
After filming in Nepal earlier this year and seeing women and girls asked to hide in caves and cowsheds while on their period, Kulczyk decided to act.
As a first step, she partnered the KulczykFoundation (her family foundation) with Founders Pledge to produce an extensive report reviewing the current state of funding and solutions to ending period poverty.
One of the report’s shocking findings is that global spending on period poverty amounts to less than 20¢ per woman per year. “It means that the issue is not taken seriously by anyone,” Kulczyk says.
The report highlights eight organizations providing outstanding and cost-effective solutions in different parts of the world, and and what are the next steps for the international community in terms of funding.
“The Kulczyk Foundation’s report highlights this fundamental gendered inequality that persists globally – and serves as a call to action to governments, donors and the world, to take long overdue action on period poverty,” says Marni Sommer, Associate Professor, Columbia University, who contributed to the report.