Menstrual health is a public health crisis for Indigenous youth

Tampons can cost between $16 and $45 in remote Indigenous communities, which means some young people use socks instead of tampons in Nunavut, while others have to miss school in Saskatchewan.

Sustainable alternatives are not a practical option for young people who want to use them because washing and maintaining reusable period products requires clean and safe water, which is not a reality due to 34 reviews term on the quality of drinking water on reserves. Some advisories have been in place for over 25 years, such as in Neskantaga First Nation.

It is a violation of the United Nations recognized human right to water and sanitation and a socio-economic barrier that negatively impacts the physical and mental health of indigenous youth. But these parameters are obscured when in fact making even the smallest ripples towards the defense of menstrual fairness can result in seismic change.

This tragic and unnecessary violation of human rights has a name: the period of poverty. This encompasses, but is not limited to, a lack of accessible, affordable, and safe menstrual products.

While menstrual poverty is prevalent in both developed and developing countries, this public health issue highlights the different levels of development in Canada, particularly undermining First Nations and Inuit communities.

In fact, this systemic approach to development means that Indigenous peoples in Canada experience the highest levels of poverty: 40% of Indigenous youth in Canada live in poverty. They are forced to use rags and newspapers, while access to clean water for hygienic menstrual health management is non-existent. With an increased risk of urogenital infections, menstrual poverty takes a heavy toll on mental health due to increased distress. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the problem.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities have been and continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and have reported greater negative impacts on mental health and financial need, with roots tied to persistent and long-standing disparities socio-economic conditions due to colonialism. . This social injustice and violation of human rights is more than a political setback – it teaches us that injustice and discrimination are ignored.

I hope these revelations raise the following questions: Why are some communities still subject to boil water advisories in 2022? Why doesn’t the United Nations point this out? Why are period products inaccessible if they are intrinsically linked to human rights? Why are literature reviews that expose the relationship between menstrual health of Indigenous peoples and their mental health so rare? Why are research findings sparse on menstrual poverty in Indigenous communities?

The more information we can gather, the more questions we can ask that will lead to change. Menstruation is a biological reality for more than half of the world’s population: all types of menstrual products should be provided and bleeding with dignity should become commonplace.

Leisha Toory is a political science student at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador and is the founder of the Period Priority Project.

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