Period Struggles: It’s 2021 And We Are Still Paying For Sanitary Pads

You read it right, it’s 2021 and we are still paying for sanitary pads. A sanitary pad is an absorbent item worn by women in the underwear when menstruating, bleeding after giving birth, etc. Brands of sanitary pads include Kotex, Carefree and also my favourite, Libresse. Most girls would be using them to make period more bearable for at least 40 years of our lifespan. So, don’t you find it odd when a product which half of the world’s population needs is labelled as a luxury product? If you do, continue reading.

Sanitary product laid down against a pink background with one pad opened.
Sanitary products are essential to almost all women yet, not only it’s not free but some countries consider them as luxury products.
Image by burin kul from Pixabay

Period Poverty

Imagine yourself as a 15-year-old girl from a low-income family. You have MYR 5 in your pocket and you need to get some food for yourself. However, you’re in a predicament because you also need to get sanitary pads. That MYR 5 can only get you either one of the two things you absolutely need. What do you do?

This is an issue that not only me but millions of women go through every month. There are many women who have to take a less safe option. Some recycle old clothes as sanitary pads, or worse, reuse the same pad more than once. This is because they can’t afford sanitary products.

Side Effects Of Not Using The Clean Pads

Using unclean pads or cheap alternatives can lead to urinary infections, urinary tract infections, or fungal infections.

“Some women may suffer from genital infections due to poor menstrual hygiene or pelvic pain, which can lead to infertility. Pelvic infections can also cause heavy periods which may cause anaemia.

Dr Hrishikesh D Pai, IVF & Infertility, Fortis La Femme, Delhi/NCR, and secretary general, Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological

Poor menstrual hygiene can lead to many issues, such as fungal or bacterial infections of the reproductive tract. Irritation of the skin causes discomfort and can possibly result in dermatitis. It’s a medical condition in which the skin swells, turns red, and at times becomes sore with blisters.

Wearing a pad for too long can lead to an infection, including vaginal yeast infection. A damp pad and friction can also cause irritation or the dreaded pad rash. This makes you more susceptible to infection.

A woman lying on a bed massaging her belly because of period cramps.
Not using the right type of sanitary product or prolonged use of a single pad can cause many unwanted infections around your genital area.
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

If you do not change your pads frequently, you are much more prone to develop rashes and vaginal yeast infections. That’s changing your pad every six to eight hours. No matter how light your flow is, it’s always safe to change your pad.

So Why Isn’t This Product Free?

Ideally, it should be free only for those who cannot afford it, or subsidise it to reduce the price. Making it more affordable when products are available for free, people do not value them. They will end up taking a lot more than what they need, leading to a lot of wastage.

Many states in the United States of America charge sales tax on tampons and other menstrual supplies as they’re considered “luxury items”. It’s as if access to these supplies is an indulgence. And all the tax revenue goes back to the states.

A typical period lasts five days. One would typically use three to five pads or tampons a day, depending on your flow. In a year, the average cost of pads or tampons use (assuming each piece is MYR 0.60) is already MYR144. In a span of 40 years, a woman would have spent about MYR 5,760.

What Can We Do About It?

We need to make our voice heard. There are organisations that have started the initiative to make sanitary products be given free and accessible for women. One such initiative is Geng Gadis’ ‘First Haid* Kit’ (*‘haid‘ is the Malay word for ‘period’).

Geng Gadis is an online community that strives to make period more bearable with its initiative to make sanitary products free.
Geng Gadis is an online community that strives to make period more bearable with its initiative to make sanitary products free.
Image from Geng Gadis Instagram Account

The ‘First Haid Kit’ Initiative is a community outreach programme by ‘Geng Gadis’ (which translates to Girls’ Gang) to provide first-time menstruators as well as menstruators who are in need of period care products around Malaysia. The goal is to help 500 girls get access to period, and sexual and reproductive health education, along with clean and hygienic period care.

Period Is Not A Luxury

 And yet, sanitary products are taxed as luxury products as if any girl could choose if she wants to get her period or not. A box of tampons or sanitary products might only cost not more than MYR 10, but people with low income struggle to afford them. Thankfully, we do have organisations and initiatives established for this exact issue which many women worldwide face.

Various type of sanitary products such as pads, tampons etc used by girls who get their period.
I hope that sanitary products will be given free in more countries in the near future.
Photo by Natracare on Unsplash

To support these initiatives, we need to be aware of how to voice our opinion on the topic of sanitary pads. If you are interested to find out more about how YOU can make a difference, reach out to Geng Gadis or support their ‘First Haid Kit‘ Initiative. Even sharing their initiatives can make a big difference to many people. You can choose to help through a one-time donation or a monthly donation towards this cause.

The first haid kit logo by Geng Gadis. A red case with the female sign on it.
Do your part now by either sharing this amazing initiative or donating. The donation doesn’t have a cash limit so you can donate any amount you can spare.
Image by Geng Gadis from

What do you want your government and/or NGOs do for your country's womenfolk with regard to sanitary pads?
4 votes

This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.

About Preveena SIVAKUMAR

Engineer, teacher, and a published author, Preveena is one friendly and bubbly character. Travelled all over Asia in search of muse and inspiration for her writing. After all, the more you've experienced the world, the better the perspective of your stories will become.

2 Replies to “Period Struggles: It’s 2021 And We Are Still Paying For Sanitary Pads”

  1. Hi Preveena! This was a great read highlighting period poverty in Malaysia. Sex education definitely plays a role in removing the stigmas around period as well. Most of us women were brought up to avoid talking about our periods in public, as if it is something to be ashamed of. It’s about time we normalise these conversations.

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