For Homeless Women, Having a Period Is a Nightmare

by Rachel Baker on January 23, 2015

Recently, during my trip to Chicago, I saw more homeless women than I’d ever seen. I couldn’t help but wonder what their stories were. What I didn’t consider is what would having a period be like for these homeless women.

The article below was first posted on VICE UK; so, all the information in it is based on UK numbers. I vaguely remember reading an article like this, but I don’t think I spent too much time on it. I wish I’d remembered the article though when I was in Chicago, I would have pulled out the three tampons I keep in my bag and given them to these downtrodden ladies.

We spend an average of 3000 days in our lives menstruating, as the article states. Seems like no matter how difficult your period may be, it would be one million times worse if you have to factor in being homeless.

So, if you see a woman who is homeless, open up your purse and give her the supplies you have for that ‘just in case’ moment. It may be one of the nicest thing anyone has done for her. And, if you can, go make a donation of tampons or pads to a woman’s homeless shelter.

Buy the Book: For Homeless Women, Having a Period Isn’t a Hassle, It’s a Nightmare

We give out condoms for free for good reason—safe sex and preventing against the transmission of STIs is an absolute imperative—but why can’t we do the same for pads and tampons? ”

Access to provisions is one thing, but if you’re on the streets, privacy becomes a distant memory, too. Washing in public toilets, as another woman at Bethany House told me, becomes the norm. However, popping to the bathroom to do that can be tricky when you need to find somewhere busy enough not to be noticed.

It seems strange that over 80 years have passed since Dr. Earle Haas patented the first modern tampon, but women who have lost their way are still being forced to stuff tissue down their knickers every month.

If menstrual care was classed as healthcare, sanitary ware would be free and available on prescription for all. For every woman who menstruates, tampons and towels are as essential toilet paper—unless you want to walk around covered in your own viscera, you can’t live without it.

We give out condoms for free for good reason—safe sex and preventing against the transmission of STIs is an absolute imperative—but why can’t we do the same for pads and tampons? Particularly when they’re classed as “sexual health” items. Women spend an average of over 3,000 days of their lives menstruating. Thus, having a period—moreover, a vagina—turns out to be rather costly.

If the 5 percent taxation on sanitary ware seems ridiculous now, it’s worth remembering it was only reduced to that in 2001, following years of campaigning for a “zero rate” of tax. Before 2001, sanitary ware was taxed at the full rate of 17.5 percent. Still, our need for products that stop us bleeding all over ourselves is considered “nonessential.”

This article was written by: Rachel Baker – Click to Become a Patron or to follow on Twitter.

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