People with paid jobs are joyful when a month comes to its end because it signifies an influx of cash into their bank accounts and pockets. But for some women and girls, the end of the month stirs anxiety because they’re thinking about their next period, and if they can afford their menstrual hygiene products if it arrives before they get paid.
In Malawi – where almost half of the population lives below the poverty line and 25 in every 100 people live in extreme poverty – only a few girls and women can afford sanitary pads.
Too embarrassed to go to school
Menstruation, lasting about five days, requires an average of K600 ($0.74 USD) worth of pads a month for most. That money is too much for some girls, such as Lilongwe-based Prudence Chavula, who recalls with apprehension the first days of her periods when she would use rags to keep the flow in check.
“I was nine years old when I started menstruating. Back then, my parents could not afford to buy the pads every month, so I had to use shreds of old pieces of fabric,” Prudence explains. She says it was embarrassing going to school while having her periods since the rags could easily leak and produce a bad smell.
Prudence concedes it is not easy for many girls and women from low-income families to afford sanitary products. Thus, she says, they opt for alternatives which are usually unhygienic and hazardous to their health, sometimes leading to urinary tract infections.