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Face masks and period pads: Why both must be considered necessities in a pandemic

Global children’s rights and humanitarian organization launches a new report: Periods in a Pandemic

TORONTO, May 28, 2020–To mark Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, Plan International Canada is drawing attention to an urgent issue affecting people who menstruate – COVID-19’s negative impact on menstrual health and period poverty. Severe shortages of period products, a sharp rise in prices and lack of access to basic information and services are leaving women, girls and those who menstruate around the world struggling to manage their periods during COVID-19 lockdowns.

This is according to new research across 30 countries that shows 73 per cent of health professionals who reported restricted access to period products globally. Plan International surveyed 61 health professionals working in the field of menstrual health management, water, sanitation and hygiene with alarming findings informing the new Periods in a Pandemic report – released today.

“We’ve all discussed the importance of face masks, but what about the dire need for period products?” says Saadya Hamdani, Director, Gender Equality at Plan International Canada. “Periods don’t stop during a pandemic but managing them safely and with dignity has become a whole lot harder. No toilets, soap, private areas for girls or pads – these are some of the challenges girls, women and people who menstruate are facing in vulnerable communities around the world right now.”

Plan International Canada worries that period stigma and shame is on the rise as well. “Many girls and women who are now confined to their homes, with little privacy, have no other choice but to use unsafe alternatives such as old rags or straw,” adds Hamdani. “Menstrual products are a basic necessity for all girls, women and those who menstruate. In times of crisis, this truth can be overlooked.”

Two-thirds (68 per cent) of the health professionals surveyed reported access to facilities to help girls manage their periods has also been disrupted, particularly in remote areas. In addition, more than half of those surveyed (58 per cent) reported a significant increase in the price of products as supply chains are disrupted and panic buying stripped the shelves of products. High prices combined with increased income insecurity and gender inequality have period products falling low on the priority list, placing the health of women and girls at risk during these times.

Periods, like pandemics, don’t have an opt out. Without access to products and information to manage their menstrual health, those who menstruate face acute risks to their health, confidence and ability to fully participate in society. Plan International Canada is working to improve menstrual health by improving access to menstrual products and information along with developing water supply and sanitation facilities in communities, schools and other places where girls and women are able to safely and privately manage their period.

“We’ve been working to improve menstrual health for years, and this element of our programming is increasingly important as the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic,” says George Yap, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Advisor at Plan International Canada. “We know that people with disabilities and people from marginalized communities, like refugees for example, are more profoundly impacted by these issues, and their menstrual health is a priority in our pandemic response.”

Plan International Canada is calling on governments and health agencies to urgently assist girls, women and people who menstruate to manage their periods safely and with dignity, and to ensure that women and girls have continued access to essential sexual and reproductive health services.

Ways to Take Action on Menstrual Hygiene Day:

The COVID-19 pandemic has denied communities around the world access to basic health and hygiene resources, including period products.

  • Visit plangifts.ca and give the gifts of Pads for Periods or Hygiene Kit for Girls. These gifts provide period products and teach girls how to use pads, make pads themselves to earn an income and provide an education to both boys and girls through school health clubs to tackle issues of shame and stigma.
  • Learn more about the issue of menstrual equity and join the conversation with @plancanada online on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using #MHD2020.

About Plan International Canada’s COVID-19 Response

Plan International’s COVID-19 response is focused on protecting the most vulnerable children and placing the needs and rights of girls and young women at the centre as the crisis unfolds. Plan In-ternational is on the frontlines of the COVID-19 global response, focused on health and hygiene and preventing the spread of COVID-19, providing personal protective equipment to healthcare providers, continuity of education, continuity of sexual and reproductive health and rights, food assistance, strengthening child protection, community engagement and accountability, and sup-porting actions in our response that address gender specific needs.

About Plan International Canada

Plan International Canada is a member of a global organization dedicated to advancing children's rights and equality for girls. We have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 80 years and are now active in more than 70 countries. We are calling on all Canadians to Defy Nor-mal: to believe in the power and potential of every child and to take a stand anywhere children are oppressed, exploited or left behind and anywhere girls aren't equally valued. Together, we can create a world where all unleash their full potential. Visit plancanada.ca for more information and follow @PlanCanada on social media to #DefyNormal and join the conversation.

Visit plancanada.ca and plancanada.ca/becauseiamagirl for more information.

Media contact:

Mahmoud Shabeeb
Plan International Canada
Mshabeeb@plancanada.ca
+1 647-674-2456

Alex Shinnan
Paradigm
ashinnan@paradigmpr.ca
+1 204-558-2025