The Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) and the Islamiah Da’wah Foundation of Malaysia (YADIM) came up with an initiative to help women of the urban poor by providing free sanitary pads — in an effort to combat period poverty. This was announced by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs), Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri on his Twitter account on 12 June.
He emphasised that it is high time to raise awareness on period poverty by intensifying efforts and campaigns within the community. Realizing that this may undoubtedly take a while due to various underlying issues, he pledged that agencies under his jurisdiction will continue to help in this cause.
Period poverty is a global issue and affects the urban poor in Malaysia. As a start, MAIWP stores and YADIMarts will provide free sanitary pads. Efforts and awareness campaigns need to be intensified in the community in order to curb this issue. — Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs)
Where Are The Stores Located?
MAIWP has three stores listed on its website, known as the Kedai Rakyat MAIWP. Two outlets are in Putrajaya, Precinct 5 and 6 respectively, and the third outlet is in Tasik Permaisuri in Cheras. Their locations can be found here. YADIMart, on the other hand, is located in Sri Kembangan, Selangor.
What’s Period Poverty?
While sanitary pads range in price and can go as low as RM2.50 per pack, those living from hand to mouth, struggling to survive or unemployed during these trying times have to make room for these expenses every month. For households with multiple menstruators, the cost quickly adds up.
This is known as period poverty as it describes the challenges women and girls from low-income groups face in affording sanitary products. This term is also used to define the economic vulnerability subjected upon women and girls due to the financial burden of sanitary products — including pain medications, other sanitary items besides pads, the inability to work full time or attend school.
It’s A Global Problem And We Must Not Ignore It In Malaysia
Period poverty is not limited to certain countries or regions. It is a global problem that women from low-income households face – mostly in silence. Due to the perceivable stigma and the nature of the issue, women carry this burden silently while trying to cope.
Paper, old newspapers, kain batik are some of the alternatives used by women in urban poor areas to manage their menstruation as they seek out other absorbent materials in place of actual sanitary pads.
Women facing period poverty also face increased risks of developing infections, which lead to serious health issues. And if they’re already lacking access to funds, housing or health support, this could be very dangerous. – Syar Said Halim, WAO Senior Capacity Building And Documentation Officer
While Malaysia has no existing data on period poverty, this does not mean that it does not exist. Take the story of Dayang for example, a mother of four. She has no choice but to reuse pads or her children’s diapers whenever her monthly menstruation cycle takes place as she does not have the money to purchase new sanitary pads.
Former Deputy Women, Family and Community Minister, Hannah Yeoh has also spoken about the issue of period poverty in a parliament press conference. She acknowledges the absence of available data and strongly agrees that more research must be done to understand how severe period poverty is in Malaysia. We can’t solve a problem we don’t yet know the extent of. Data is important in helping to tackle the issue of period poverty in the nation.
More research should also be encouraged to understand the severity of period poverty in Malaysia, in order to gather data and address the issue efficiently. – Hannah Yeoh, Former Deputy Women, Family and Community Minister
Organizations Curbing Period Poverty
In response, communities and organizations are banding together to promote awareness of period poverty while playing their part in meeting the needs of girls and women. Here’s some of them:
- Athena Empowers is a social business that sells reusable sanitary pads. Their drawn-out vision is to help decrease period poverty through different instructive workshops. A segment of their profit goes towards their projects and they work with different NGOs to disperse reusable pads to the underprivileged communities.
- Bunga Pads sells reusable pads and they collaborate with The She Society to raise awareness on women’s health and hygiene issues among the younger demography.
- Bulan Sisters is a youth-led initiative that aims at delineating periods while eradicating period poverty in underprivileged communities.
- Soroptimist Puberty Organising Toolkit (SPOT) Malaysia is a movement created for girls, by girls, focusing on providing comprehensive sexuality education since 2015. Their programmes are culturally sensitive and they encourage young women to develop a positive attitude towards sexual and reproductive health.
Explore Our Sources:
- Ramachandran, J. (2021). MAIWP Stores And YADIMarts Will Be Providing Free Sanitary Pads To Curb Period Poverty. Says. Link.
- Goldberg, ML. (2018). Let’s Talk About Menstrual Hygiene. UN Dispatch. Link.
- UNFPA. (2020). Menstruation and human rights – Frequently asked questions. United Nations Population Funds. Link.
- Chatterjee, CB. (2006). Identities in Motion; Migration and Health In India. The Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), Mumbai. Link.
- Action Aid. Period Poverty. Link.
- I. M. Iskandar. (2021). Period poverty adds to challenges facing women in urban areas. New Straits Times. Link.
- Wiki Impact. (2020). Breaking The Hush-hush About Period Poverty. Link.
- Carvalho, M. et al. (2019). Education Ministry Must Gather Data On Students Affected By Period Poverty Says Hannah Yeoh. The Star. Link.