Women suffer from menstrual poverty in LA and the Caribbean

San José.— Due to the lack of access to drinking water and menstrual supplies, such as panty liners, towels, compresses, tampons, cups, underwear, reusable parts or other suitable and safe products, millions of Latin American and Caribbean women are inhibited from leaving their homes during their period of rule and lose a large number of days of study and work and deepen social discrimination and economic backwardness in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In a phenomenon known as menstrual poverty, because it harms the care economy associated with menstruation and hits family and individual income, the decision of women to refrain from going to study or work can add up to 60 days a year, according to the duration of the rule.

“At this moment, girls, adolescents, women (…) cannot go to school, college, work or social activities because they do not have what it takes to manage their menstruation,” explained social entrepreneur Marysela Zamora, executive director of the non-profit organization state Nosotras Women Connecting, from Costa Rica. “In a school year for a girl without access, she could lose up to 60 days of education. Two full months out of school is unacceptable. The mere fact of not having the same access to education makes that girl face even deeper difficulties that interfere with her life project,” Zamora told EL UNIVERSAL.

“It is key to understand that the menstrual poverty experienced by many women is related both to lack of access to menstrual products, and to the lack of access to menstrual education, water, infrastructure, or conditions that ensure dignified, safe, and autonomous management for those who menstruate. ”, he warned. Nosotras Women Connecting launched this week in Costa Rica a campaign for the Legislative Assembly (Congress) to include menstruation products in the basic basket and with a lower tax rate. “It is a global reality that women work more, earn less and also pay sexist taxes. For this reason, releasing menstruation from the payment of taxes is synonymous with social and tax justice for women”, stated the project. Costa Rica, with an open and free market economy, and Cuba, with a state-controlled economy, evidenced the reality.

Each month and depending on the duration of her menstrual phase, a Cuban woman spends more than half of the monthly minimum salary in Cuba, of 21 dollars, on her menstrual needs. The cost will rise with a menstruating mother and daughter, in a country where these products are almost always in short supply and they are forced to look for them on the black market and at a higher price.

A Costa Rican in the range of lowest income per month (443 dollars) consumes about 8% in Costa Rica to pay for menstruation items, said Nosotras Women Connecting based on official data; 80,000 Costa Rican girls, adolescents, and adults were absent from school courses, jobs, or social activities in 2018 due to lacking “what is necessary for their menstruation,” which affects “especially those who live in rural coastal areas, where (…) there is less infrastructure, deepening the menstrual poverty that many experience,” Zamora narrated.

With 661 million inhabitants, of which 223 million are in extreme poverty, the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries closed 2022 with 337 million women, with 118 million in poverty and 124 in extreme poverty for every 100 men, according to the Commission Economic for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal). Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the area suffered a severe 10-year social setback. The UN Human Rights Council warned since 2014 that the lack of access to adequate water and sanitation services, “particularly for the management of menstrual hygiene and the generalized stigma associated with menstruation”, have a negative impact on equality of rights. gender and their human rights.

Cepal revealed in 2020 that more than 15 million Latin American and Caribbean people defecate in the open and that 440 million lack safe sanitation (water and other) services. “Untreated human waste can spread disease. Hand hygiene is one of the most effective barriers against the spread of disease. In addition, the availability of private bathrooms with running and clean water helps women and girls to experience their menstruation with dignity”, she stressed.

“Not having adequate means for menstrual hygiene causes gaps and deepens inequalities,” said Guatemalan sociologist Ana Silvia Monzón, feminist, social communicator, and researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO). The lack of these elements acts “against women’s right to education,” she told this newspaper Monzón. “Many stop attending [a estudiar] out of shame or discomfort (…) there are other situations where women face difficulties such as those who live on the streets or are deprived of their liberty”, she lamented.

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Women suffer from menstrual poverty in LA and the Caribbean