Many people aren’t aware of the struggles some children and teens go through on a daily basis in the United States. Although we’d like to believe that no child goes hungry in this country or doesn’t have access to basic necessities, the truth is that many families are living in poverty.
Period poverty is an unfamiliar term for most Americans, but it’s a common problem that needs to be solved. People who menstruate often do not have access to the most basic period supplies, causing a range of different problems that affect their everyday lives. In the United States, food stamps do not cover menstrual products, meaning that women who are struggling to pay for food also cannot pay for these essentials either.
The issue of period poverty can affect anyone who gets a period. But for teenagers in high school, it can cause some serious issues. Here’s what you need to know if you want to help eliminate period poverty in American high schools.
The Latest on Period Poverty
Although around 50% of the population gets periods for a substantial part of their lives, getting access to safe and sanitary bathroom facilities, pads, and tampons can be challenging and expensive. Most countries do not provide these sanitary products free of charge and many regions even tax them.
This causes women around the world to make some tough choices. They might have to decide between buying groceries or paying a bill and buying period supplies. If they don’t have access to pads and tampons, they might use makeshift alternatives, like toilet paper, rags, or even plastic bags, which can cause health problems.
For younger women, period poverty can lead to high schoolers missing school, which causes them to fall behind. Stigma and lack of education are also factors in girls missing school or experiencing other problems due to period poverty.
Statistics on Period Poverty in High School
You might be surprised by just how common period poverty is for American teens. According to one survey, around 25% of teens have missed class due to period poverty and 84% have missed class time or know someone who has for the same reason. Most teens feel ashamed or self-conscious of their periods and aren’t comfortable bringing their period products to the bathroom.
Schools aren’t providing essentials like pads and tampons. Kids feel shame and they have to hide their periods or miss school. This means that many students fall behind or are distracted in class due to self-consciousness or discomfort.
And it isn’t just lack of products that’s the problem. It’s a lack of information. Not only can many students not afford period products, but they aren’t taught about their bodies or how to use menstrual products.
How Can School Nurses Help?
The bottom line is that we can’t let students suffer due to period poverty. Addressing a lack of access to products is certainly important—we need to work toward free pads and tampons for everyone who menstruates—but there are other pieces to the puzzle as well. Schools should be offering high-quality health instruction to students and offering more support.
School nurses can support students by providing a safe space where they can get answers to their questions. Some school nurses are even nurse practitioners, with the advanced skills and knowledge to help self-conscious teens. It is very important for students to know that they can get non-judgmental help at school and feel confident that the nurse will help them deal with any period-related problems that may come up.
Spread Awareness on the Realities of Period Poverty
One of the problems with period poverty in America is that very few people know it exists, or at least how much it impacts the lives of women and teen girls. You can help by spreading awareness and giving people accurate information about how period poverty is harmful
Unless we start talking about this issue more openly, shame will continue to drive the culture surrounding periods. We also need to start demanding that access be expanded for period products, ideally making tampons and pads free in schools, prisons, and for all who need them.
Period care is an essential aspect of being a woman. It’s time to step up for women and girls.