Sharon Kwek
Sharon is a Director of Consulting, Beauty and Personal Care, South APAC, at Mintel. With over 12 years of experience in the FMCG industry, she helps beauty manufacturers, retailers and brands make strategic business decisions across Southeast Asia.

Period poverty is a global problem that stops millions of people from being able to afford menstrual products because of economic vulnerability, lack of understanding, and/or poor hygiene standards. The issue of period poverty is threefold: lack of awareness, acceptance and access.

The attention brought by Menstrual Hygiene Day (28 May) is not solely centered around periods but also on the gaps that still exist in normalizing conversations about menstruation. Current cultural stigmas can lead to a lack of social and health care support, limited opportunities for education and earning potential, as well as many more barriers that hinder individuals from reaching their full potential. 

De-stigmatizing and de-mystifying menstruation

According to Mintel data, in India, only a fraction of women* use disposable sanitary protection products because of the high cost. More importantly, there are still strong social and religious stigmas surrounding menstruation which further fuels this access gap.

Menstrual health conditions vary widely from country to country, but there is a significant need worldwide. According to an article published in the journal Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, nearly a quarter of all menstruators experience period poverty, meaning that they do not have what they need to manage their periods. That’s over 500 million people.

Periods are a natural bodily function for women, girls and gender-diverse people. And it is important to recognise that every person who menstruates experiences it differently. Myths and misinformation about menstrual health spread easily, and while some women’s health information is shared with the best intentions, it can lead to shame, anxiety, and poor health decision-making on behalf of the person menstruating. Beyond physical pain, the impact of menstruation extends to mental and emotional wellbeing, which is often underestimated. 

Period poverty is among the social inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19. Even in developed economies, inadequate access to menstrual hygiene and the affordability of basic sanitary products are persistent issues. Beyond the physical, mental, and emotional challenges, these inequities impact teenagers’ access to education and can have significant economic implications for women in the workforce.

Raising awareness and mobilizing funding

While menstruation remains taboo in many parts of the world, there is a growing movement globally to encourage people to get more comfortable talking about periods, help correct misinformation, lift the shame from the shoulders of those who menstruate and help them achieve good menstrual hygiene, as well as gain access to opportunities. 

Recently, more and more organizations have begun addressing the topic, discussing its impact and acknowledging that employees can have different needs at different times of the month. In addition to driving awareness and supporting internal discussions, companies can also work with charities and support period poverty in a bid to make menstruation less of a taboo.

This past May, Mintel Gives APAC (Mintel’s employee-led charitable giving initiative) and the Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) employee resource group collaborated with Days for Girls on an internal fundraising event and webinar in order to increase awareness around period poverty in rural communities in APAC. To date, the initiative has raised USD $4,488 for the organization, contributing to Days for Girls’ work, which positively impacts the lives of 2.5 million women, girls and people with periods in 144 countries.

*We recognise that not everyone who menstruates identifies as a woman and that not all women menstruate.

If you’re a Mintel client interested in learning more about the global hygiene and sanitary market, or discussing what consumers want and why when it comes to brands raising their voice in support of social justice initiatives, please get in touch with your Account Manager. If you’re not a client, but interested to learn more about Mintel’s insights and recommendations surrounding brands’ social awareness, visit the Mintel Store to buy a report today.

More about Mintel Diversity and Mintel Gives

At Mintel, we strive to create a workplace that reflects the diverse communities around us and those represented in our research. We value diverse talent and unique perspectives as they drive sustainable success for our business and people. Mintel Diversity is committed to working with our employee resource groups (ERGs) to foster a culture where everyone feels respected, valued, and empowered. APAC-based Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) strives to build a community that empowers women within Mintel, creates a safe space for women to be represented and increases awareness around equality. 

We believe everyone has a role to play in caring for one another—so much so, that we encourage employees to support organisations that matter to them by giving them additional paid time off for volunteering. Through Mintel Gives, we facilitate the charitable giving of time and financial resources with a focus on social equality, the environment, mentorship and education, health and wellness, and local communities.