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Imagining an equitable period-friendly Trinidad and Tobago

A transformative future reflects significant change – leading to improved well-being, equity, sustainability, and progress for all people and communities.  An equitable future envisions societies where everyone has fair and just opportunities to thrive, regardless of background, identity, or circumstances. 

A transformative and equitable future is impossible without ending period poverty. 

Ending period poverty is about recognizing menstrual health and hygiene as fundamental human rights and taking comprehensive action to ensure that everyone can manage their periods safely, hygienically, and with dignity, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Feminitt Caribbean continues to document how people are impacted by the lack of adequate sexual and reproductive healthcare, contributing to period poverty. While several organisations, including Feminitt, provide period products to communities, we understand that achieving menstrual equity goes beyond product-driven activities. Period poverty must be addressed from a cultural and political level – we believe a whole society approach is crucial to reducing the rates of period poverty and breaking the stigma associated with it. 

As many grow aware of this growing human rights issue, the question of "why aren't period products universally free," is often asked. It is tied into broader discussions around accessibility, gender equity, policymakers' connection to those they serve, and the inclusivity of healthcare. A natural biological process that occurs in the bodies of millions of people as part of the menstrual cycle should not represent a financial burden, particularly for those in marginalised communities, and policies should reflect this.

Historically, regionally, and locally, menstrual hygiene has been stigmatised, leading to periods being seen as a taboo subject. Through workshops and discussions around periods specifically in the context of Trinidad and Tobago, we identified that cultural and spiritual beliefs around menstruating have at times also hindered efforts to provide free or subsidised products, due to cultural and religious resistance. Increasing access to menstrual health and education improves the knowledge of menstruating people and those around them.  It helps to debunk myths and stigma that increase the rates of period poverty and even difficult periods experienced by many. 

Every year on May 28, Menstrual Health Day (MHD) serves as an opportunity to advocate for the importance of access to menstrual products, menstrual health education, and eliminating stigma and discrimination related to menstruation. MHD acknowledges global efforts being made to address menstrual inequity through advocacy for policy changes such as the removal of the pink tax, providing subsidised products in certain environs (such as schools or homeless shelters), such as the local Safe Cycle Project by Feminitt Caribbean, and other ongoing initiatives to reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation.

The progress towards a period-friendly world has been significant but, there is still a lot to be done to secure the transformation to an equitable future that is within our rights. 

The desired outcomes in the Safe Cycle project by Feminitt Caribbean are notably achievable resolutions toward ending period poverty in Trinidad and Tobago. To end period poverty, all state actors, civil society organisations and people in the SRHR field must work together to promote menstrual equity. Feminitt emphasises that collaboration is vital and that this process must also engage men and boys as menstrual experiences and issues do not exist in a silo. 

Recommendations proposed by Feminitt in the Safe Cycle report:

  1. A "period card" that will allow people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to access menstrual products for a safe and healthy cycle,

  2. Sexual and reproductive health hotlines,

  3. Situate period poverty and menstrual equity within the larger framework of sexual and reproductive health and rights and human rights -- implement policy around menstrual equity,

  4. Improve Comprehensive Sexuality Education to include information about menstrual health and menstrual equity; and

  5. Increase regional research on the prevalence of period poverty and menstrual inequity.

Read Safe Cycle: Ensuring a Safe Menstrual Cycle and Menstrual Equity here.

Feminitt Caribbean hopes that in addition to education and awareness, policymakers in and outside Trinidad and Tobago implement policies to address period poverty steering to free menstrual products in public restrooms, schools, workplaces, and shelters. 

A future without period poverty is characterised by equality, dignity, and inclusivity, where everyone has the resources and support they need to experience periods with confidence, safety, and without shame and other barriers.  

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