In March 2020, almost the entire world stopped due to the threat of a novel virus that would later infect over 6.3 million people and lead to the deaths of more than 376,000 people. Entire countries were shut down, with only essential workers allowed to leave their homes and go to work so that grocery stores, healthcare facilities, and public transportation systems could continue to operate. For societies that centered their cultures and institutions around the basis of socializing and personable interaction, the pandemic came as an extreme shock. In the United States, the pandemic led to millions of people filing for unemployment and companies bracing for significant financial losses. Almost everyone entered unfamiliar circumstances that required a lot of personal adaptation especially to daily life. Without the looming threat of economic collapse and a pandemic, those who come from lower socioeconomic statuses or impoverished areas already experience disadvantages when trying to access proper menstrual hygiene products and relevant resources. Now, a greater number of menstruators are at risk of losing access to essential products due to limited income or lack of supply in their local stores, as many stores have faced product shortages. In addition, many frontline workers were thrown into long working hours with little break time and called for better access to products in their workplaces that they would now be spending more time in. With governments determining which products and services were essential, the most widespread way to ensure menstruators had proper access to the products they needed was through legislation. In the United States, the CARES Act signed on March 27th, 2020 listed all menstrual products as essential and were now covered by Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts. Considering the constant battle between American menstruators and their efforts in repealing the Tampon Tax, many believe this is a step in the right direction. However, it is important to note that CARES is not an adequate solution for people who still cannot afford or find pads, tampons, menstrual cups, soap, and other hygiene goods. Another instance of positive action occurred in Wuhan City where about 40,000 pads were shipped and distributed to female frontline workers. The efforts taken by the United States and China are examples of constructive measures, but other countries continue to face systemic oppression with regard to menstrual rights. As discussed, only essential items on government-curated lists remained in production, so in countries like India where pads, toilet tissue, and soap were not among the specific items, the nation’s supply quickly became scarce. Indian menstruators in migrant or rural populations felt the hardest impact of this shortage as they had to heavily rely on relief groups to obtain what they needed. A few interviews in the cited article discuss the unhygienic means some people have had to take to “stay dry during menstruation.” Some girls biked for miles across their towns to get products while others used cloth scraps to make pads. In parts of the world where menstruation is stigmatized and access to supplies is disproportionate, the COVID-19 crisis presents yet another challenge for people to properly be able to take care of themselves during menstruation. The articles about India are only a few of the hundreds of stories where menstruators are left to fend for themselves while greater institutions continue to overlook their struggles. In fact, as previously mentioned, healthcare workers all over the globe have expressed an overall lack of menstrual hygiene products and minimal action taken by authorities to fulfill their requests. With so much uncertainty ahead in this pandemic, the best we can do is to use our resources and platforms to help others. At the end of this post, I have included some links where you can find information about donating items or money to various organizations that provide menstrual hygiene products either in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area or nationally. Please feel free to repost these organizations on social media or spread the word about their missions to bring more awareness to people who may be able to contribute to this cause in these uncertain times.
-https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html (cited on June 2nd, 2020)