An NGO on the move to demystify menstruation and raise funds to buy sanitary products for women B40

PETALING JAYA: Periods, a regular biological phenomenon, force millions of girls around the world to drop out of school every year. Women are absent from work at this time of the month, and it is all due to a serious, but little-discussed problem called “menstrual poverty”.

Without access to proper sanitary products, they hide or end up using dangerous alternatives such as toilet paper, rags and even newspapers.

Those who choose to take time off work on these crucial days end up losing their jobs.

The B40 or low-income community is hardest hit and, according to Bulan Sisters, a campaign by young people to demystify menstruation and end menstrual poverty in underprivileged communities, there is insufficient data to determine the extent of the problem in Malaysia. As a result, it is difficult to reach those affected.

The situation has only worsened with the Covid-19 pandemic. “When you’re struggling to get food on the table, sanitary products quickly fall on the priority list,” Bulan Sisters said. the sun.

They said women in rural B40 communities are most affected due to lack of knowledge about menstruation and the importance of hygiene.

“This is compounded by the lack of allocation for appropriate health commodities given limited resources. Low-income families are less likely to spend money on expensive and frequently used menstruation items, ”they said.

However, the use of unhygienic methods carries health risks.

Last but not least is the shame attached to this biological attribute in many cultures.

Bulan Sisters said the first step to solving the problem is to have the community work with government and non-governmental organizations on a nationwide data collection effort. “Based on the data, we can formulate a step-by-step approach to solve the core problem,” they said.

In the long run, they said, there should be policy changes to make menstrual products free for everyone, and a period topic should be part of the education system.

Other than that, they said, the government could be more involved by incorporating a forward-thinking approach into solving the problem. “For example, we can introduce a program for women in Group B40 to sew reusable sanitary napkins for sale. It is a sustainable ecosystem that not only provides jobs, but also enables women to access these essential items. “

In the short term, they said, the government could give free sanitary products such as sanitary napkins to communities facing poverty during the lean season to help them overcome the initial lean season. Such efforts are already underway in Sabah where girls from indigenous communities are learning the menstrual cycle through “Bulan Move-ment” workshops organized in collaboration with guides from Kuala Lumpur.

Personal menstrual kits are also distributed to participants in these workshops.

Kimberley Tan, a committee member of the Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS), said that while the government’s decision to abolish the ‘pink tax’ in 2018 made sanitary products cheaper, it did not lead to a decrease in menstrual poverty. “This is another reason why data is so essential. This will tell us where the gaps are, which communities are struggling with menstrual poverty and how to address it, ”she said. the sun.

Tan suggested that the Ministry of Education introduce sexual health education into the curriculum to break the taboo on menstruation.

“Providing menstrual products at school will also help ease the financial burden on low-income families,” she said.

Tan noted that while there were many food aid programs during the Covid-19 pandemic, there were none for health products. To fill the gap, SWWS, in collaboration with KuchingFoodAid, launched a donation campaign for health protection.

“We use our platform to raise funds to buy sanitary products to distribute and to raise awareness about the poverty of the rules. “

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