In Lebanon, women are fighting period poverty and breaking taboos to promote menstrual health. Worsening economic conditions have hit women and girls hard, exacerbating the struggle to access safe and affordable menstrual hygiene products. This problem, known as period poverty, has significant social and economic consequences, often forcing those who can’t afford these products to stay home from work or school while menstruating.

Addressing the Issue on Two Fronts

The Lebanese social enterprise Roof and Roots, supported by ACTED, UN Women, and the Government of Japan, is working to tackle period poverty by training and employing local women to manufacture and distribute affordable menstrual products. With locations in Jabal Mohsen, Tripoli, and Saida, Beirut, the organization also facilitates discussions and educational sessions with women and girls, helping to break taboos around menstruation and reproductive health. By March 2022, the team had produced an initial batch of 13,500 packs of such products, selling them door-to-door and distributing a percentage of revenue to vulnerable women in the area.

Personal Experiences Fuel Change

Tripoli locals Hiba Mohammad Hussein, 34, and Itab Bayoud, 46, both experienced period poverty and menstrual stigma firsthand. Now working with Roof and Roots, they are helping to ensure other women and girls don’t have the same experiences. Hussein, a mother of two, is her family’s main provider since her husband was injured in a military clash in 2015. Formerly a driving instructor, Hussein joined Roof and Roots in 2021, making sanitary products and raising awareness on reproductive health.

The Impact of Period Poverty

Period poverty is a significant issue in communities like Hussein’s, where the increasing prices of menstrual hygiene products have a detrimental effect on women and their families. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has indicated that financial vulnerability for period poverty is present in developing countries experiencing economic crises, like Lebanon. The Lebanese lira has lost more than 15% of its value since the start of 2022, contributing to almost 82% of the population living in multidimensional poverty related to income, services, education, and health.

Collaborative Efforts to Combat Period Poverty

Various international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have implemented initiatives to limit and eradicate period poverty in Lebanon. Dawrati, a local NGO, distributes menstruation kits and works to empower menstruators through conversations, discussions, and awareness campaigns. Fe-Male, a civil feminist collective, also distributes menstrual kits and organizes awareness sessions to break the period poverty stigma. Jeyetik, another local initiative established following the Beirut Blast explosion, distributed nearly 8,000 pads and tampons to females who lost their homes. The organization also conducted a 2-month festival across Lebanon, hosting information sessions and distributing reusable pads. International NGOs like UNFPA, Days for Girls, and Plan International have researched period poverty, distributed menstrual dignity kits to those in need, and conducted awareness sessions about methods to deal with periods and other related topics in Lebanon.

Creating Lasting Change

The efforts of Roof and Roots, along with other NGOs, are helping to create lasting change for women and girls in Lebanon. By providing access to affordable menstrual hygiene products, facilitating open conversations, and promoting education around reproductive health, these organizations are breaking down the barriers and stigma surrounding menstruation. The work of these grassroots movements is essential in the fight against period poverty and the continued empowerment of women and girls in Lebanon and beyond.