Lockdown has exposed deep inequalities which we can't ignore
August 05, 2020 — Team Fempowered

2020. The year we all pressed the pause button on ‘normal life’. But as well as the social calendar being thrown out the window, the cancelled events and the furloughs, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown has exposed deep inequalities which we can’t ignore.

Read on to find out more about the huge negative repercussions the virus has on women from different cultures and the struggles that people who menstruate are having to face during this time.

This year, cultures across the world have experienced lockdowns, limited supplies of goods and restricted access to healthcare. Millions of people have faced difficult decisions about interacting with loved ones. And women are often the ones who are most impacted. 

Menstrual matters

Imagine waking up in the middle of a pandemic and your period has just arrived, but you're completely out of supplies with no means to get more. It’s a stark reality for so many people.

During COVID-19, many factories that produce period products have been forced to close, slow production or switch to producing personal protective equipment. This means that in places where the supply of these necessities is already fickle, products can be harder to come by. What’s more, for those who normally access products through public places like schools, lockdown has blocked their only means for getting period products.

Half of the world’s population menstruate and that includes transgender and nonbinary people. It shouldn’t be an afterthought. The right to bleed with dignity should be a basic human right. But for millions of people, what we may take for granted is just not available to them. This includes dealing with periods in privacy, with clean water access, basic handwashing facilities like soap and safe materials to collect or absorb the blood flow.

Lockdown living

In addition, with schools and workplaces closing and enforced social isolation, there is a greater impact on everyone’s home life. And in many countries, the washing, cooking, cleaning and other daily chores fall to the women and girls. Chores that are increased tenfold in lockdown. Domestic violence has also increased during lockdown, with many feeling trapped within the lockdown restrictions and not feeling able to speak out.

As we’ve learnt, handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to combat the spread of infectious disease. It seems so simple, yet 3 billion people don’t have access to basic handwashing facilities at home. In many countries, it’s the women and girls who have to fetch water (29% of people still don’t have running water in their own homes), which means that women are already at greater risk than men of exposing themselves to illness. It also means that during their periods they have no clean water to wash with, or clean reusable period products they might use.

The frontline fighters

70% of global health and social care workers are women - putting themselves and their families in danger by exposing themselves on the frontline to help other people who are suffering. Often without the correct (or any) protective equipment, women care workers are feeling the pressure to go to work, both from society, but also to support their families financially.

But it’s simply not safe. Globally, two out of five healthcare facilities lack basic handwashing facilities like clean water and soap. It's easy to see how quickly infectious diseases can spread.

Care workers, in particular women nurses, also face increased violence and harassment during health crises. For example during the Ebola crisis in Congo, 300 health centres were attacked leaving 70 people injured and six dead.

And harassment can take many forms, as some health workers in the hospitals of China’s Hubei province found out when they spoke out about the difficulties of managing their periods in full body protective gear, with limited toilet breaks and working overtime to manage the influx of COVID-19 patients. Their concerns were met with chiding comments that they “lacked the spirit of devotion”.

So what can we do?

We can all start close to home by bloody talking about it - periods shouldn’t be something that’s brushed under the carpet. Talk about it at home, at work and with your family and friends.

People who menstruate have a right to manage their periods with dignity. By subscribing to Fempowered you not only have eco-friendly products delivered to your door, but you’re helping us break down taboos that are spurring on inequalities everywhere. 100% of the profits from your subscription will go to WaterAid projects which help provide clean water, more toilets and better education to communities where it’s needed.