Look, it’s not exactly like we look forward to getting our periods every month. But, when we get it, we have our Kali Box sitting pretty in our bathroom cabinet, or, at the very least, we have access to tampons when we are out and about. Sure, there might be the occasional “Whoopsie!” moment, when you totally forgot Aunt Flo was coming to town this week, and maybe you have to shove some toilet paper up there while at work to hold you over until you can go pick something up. It's not the end of the world, although it might be annoying to you.
For the most part, we’ve got this whole menstrual thing down. I have a stash in my car at all times, and I have no shame in asking a fellow woman for help when I need it.
But what about homeless women who barely have enough money to feed themselves, let alone purchase tampons? Oftentimes, a homeless woman can head to the shelter and gain access to tampons or pads, but what does she do when the shelter is full or unable to accommodate her needs? Tampons are not given out freely like condoms are at every clinic.
Believe it or not (and feel free to let your jaw drop to the floor after reading this), menstrual hygiene products are classed as a "luxury, non-essential item” in this country. Yes, those “luxurious” items we women all NEED every month are viewed as non-essential. The best part? These items are taxed! What can a woman do when faced with the decision to either feed herself that day or have a way to stop her uterus from shedding its lining all over her already soiled clothes?
And — just like you — these women need help every month. It can be impossible for an impoverished woman to drag herself to the shelter every few weeks to pick up enough items to hold her over during her cycle. Think of how inconvenienced you feel when you have to stop your whole day just to run to CVS and pick up a box of tampons. Imagine that feeling times a hundred, subtract the luxury of having a way to pay for them, and you have maybe a little bit of an idea of what its like to get your period as a homeless woman.
She might have to sneak into the nearest fast food restaurant’s bathroom and shove TP in her pants. She might have to skip eating for the entire day just to buy a box of pads. Or she might have to walk for miles and miles just to find one shelter that can accommodate her needs. She may not be able to change what little she has frequently enough, which can lead to infections like toxic shock syndrome.
Our homeless sisters have it hard enough having to already move from one unsafe and potentially dangerous situation to another on a daily basis.
We can help. We can all help. It’s an issue we do not discuss enough. It is an issue of which we need not only to be aware, but also do something about. I believe it is our duty to help our sisters in need. Skipping that second glass of wine while enjoying happy hour with girlfriends on a Thursday night could mean purchasing a box (or two) of tampons or pads for a woman who desperately needs it.
Whether you bring those items to your local shelter or kindly find a safe way to hand them out to homeless women when you see them, know that your contribution can mean the world to someone. Know that by doing so, you may have spared a woman even more shame than she may already be feeling. You are helping her avoid infection. You are helping her avoid ruining what little she has in the way of clothing. You are helping her spare using her last few dollars on pads instead of nourishment.
These are our sisters, whether we are fully conscious of this or not on a regular basis. Please look into how you can get involved in your community. If you cannot donate your time, at the very least, you can donate some menstrual hygiene products.