The Impact of Period Poverty in Tanzania

Art in Tanzania Internship-Tiffany Lo

Managing periods in Tanzania is challenging due to a lack of access to menstrual products and sanitation services. Over 50% of Tanzanians do not have access to improved sanitation and access to clean drinking water is often limited (Moloney, 2020). With a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, information, and appropriate sanitation services, women and girls are put at risk for poor physical or reproductive health (Moloney, 2020). This also has detrimental effects, as it limits opportunities for girls and women in Tanzania (Moloney, 2020).

Water facilities are not available in 38% of Tanzanian schools, the water facilities are not operational in 46% of the cases, and 64% of school latrines do not have a place to dispose of sanitary pads (Maji Safi Group, 2020). 85% of girls are forced to use unhygienic solutions such as strips of cloth, which can spread fungi and infection due to a lack of sanitation services and menstrual products (Maji Safi Group, 2020). The severe lack of resources often forces girls to use other unsanitary options such as leaves, pieces of a mattress filling, or used cloth (Maji Safi Group, 2020). Using these options could result in infections (Maji Safi Group, 2020).

Because of misinformation, menstruation has negative connotations, girls often face stigma and are made to feel ashamed of themselves and their bodies (Moloney, 2020). Girls often isolate themselves at home during menstruation, sometimes even missing school (Maji Safi Group, 2020). According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), about one in ten African teenage girls that reside in remote areas miss school during their menstruation cycle and eventually drop out of school due to issues that surround period poverty (Maji Safi Group, 2020). According to a study by Tawasanet Menstruation and Health Management, 62% of female students miss school due to physical illness that is a result from menstruation (Maji Safi Group, 2020). As a result, these young women face negative long-term socio-economic and educational effects (Maji Safai Group, 2020).

Pads and menstrual products are also often expensive—for example, sanitary products costs a typical Tanzanian woman 3.4% of her monthly salary, compared to 0.15% for the average American woman (Kottasová, 2018). For some women in rural communities, it can cost even more—even as much as 10% of a woman’s salary (Kottasová, 2018). Period poverty also negatively impacts the economy, as female workers may have to miss several days of work a month when menstruating (Kottasová, 2018). The Tanzanian government reports that 60% of women live in “absolute poverty”, and due to period poverty, women who are already economically disadvantaged to begin with face greater economic hurdles due to factors such as missing and dropping out of school and missing days of work due to being unable to afford menstrual and sanitary products (Kottasová, 2018).

Increasing education on menstrual and reproductive health is essential in combating period poverty in Tanzania (Moloney, 2020). Many organizations are dedicated to ending gender-based discrimination and destigmatize female hygiene, such as the Maji Safi Group, which uses a comprehensive approach which includes community outreach, providing learning materials, after school programs and employing Tanzanian women as community health educators (Moloney, 2020).

Sources:

Kottasová, I. (2018, October 3). When pads are a luxury, getting your period means missing out on life

Maji Safai Group. (2020, December 23). Period Poverty in Tanzania: Menstruation Issues & Sanitation.

Moloney, R. (2020, September 29). Fighting Period Poverty in Tanzania.