From child marriage to malnutrition, Polish philanthropist Dominika Kulczyk has spotlighted numerous injustices around the world in her docuseries, Domino Effect.
But after visiting Nepal at the beginning of this year for her series’ seventh season, Kulczyk decided to focus her attention on one issue in particular: period poverty.
In a new report by the Kulczyk Foundation and the Founders Pledge, researchers found that initiatives tackling period poverty are majorly underfunded, with less than $100 million a year spent directly on menstrual hygiene programs globally. This compares to $450 billion in charitable donations last year in the United States alone.
In a world where an estimated 500 million girls and women lack access to adequate sanitation, the current funding equates to less than 20 cents per person in need.
“If you think about it, access to complete menstrual health and hygiene is a basic human right,” Kulczyk, who has a net wealth of $1.9 billion, told Global Citizen. “Without it, women and girls just cannot pursue full lives with dignity and confidence.”
The deep social problems my foundation and I focused on before the pandemic (including domestic abuse, lack of access to education, period poverty) are not going away and are mostly getting worse. Because of that, women must always be at the forefront of our efforts. My article in the „Philanthropy Impact” magazine addresses the pandemic that hit women the hardest. „Philantrophy Impact” deals with topics related to philantropic education and inspires to engage in helping those in need across borders. . Głębokie problemy społeczne, na których razem z moją fundacją skupiliśmy się przed pandemią (w tym przemoc domowa, brak dostępu do edukacji, okresowe ubóstwo) nie ustępują i w większości przypadków się pogarszają. Dlatego kobiety muszą znajdować się w czołówce naszych działań. O pandemii, która najmocniej uderzyła w kobiety, piszę w artykule dla magazynu "Philanthropy Impact", który zajmuje się tematami związanymi m.in. z edukacją filantropijną oraz inspiruje do angażowania się w pomoc potrzebującym ponad granicami. . . . #DominikaKulczyk #philantropyimpact #philanthropy #kulczykfoundation #filantropia #philanthropist #women #charity #pandemic #foundation #womenforwomen #charitable #pomoc #interview #covid_19 #quarantine #women #girls #ig_worldclub #portraitphotography #portraiture #portrait #portrait_vision #portrait_mood #portrait_shots #support
During her time in Nepal’s Kalikot district earlier this year, Kulczyk shadowed Maya Khaitu, director of Days for Girls Nepal, and met with locals from a rural village. There, she witnessed the outlawed, but still practiced, custom of “chhaupadi,” which orders girls and women to sleep in an animal shed or remote hut when they’re menstruating.
The period taboo and its impacts are not just issues in Nepal, but all around the world. In Uganda, a study found that many girls skip school while on their period to avoid teasing by classmates, and in the US, nearly half of women report they have experienced period-shaming by men.
Published Oct. 15, the report "A Bloody Problem" is the beginning of Kulczyk’s efforts to open up the conversation and ensure menstrual health and hygiene for girls and women. The report presents a global look at the period poverty, identifies the most cost-effective solutions thus far, and determines next steps for the international community in terms of funding.
“One of the main things holding back greater investment in menstrual hygiene and health is the lack of data in the field,” Kulczyk said.
In order to fill this gap, researchers assessed 80 organizations fighting period poverty, and selected eight to feature in the report and recommend for future funding. The report highlights each organization’s work and the reasons it was chosen, and also how much funding the organization will need and the specific ways it plans to use that money.
One of the spotlight organizations is Days for Girls, which Kulczyk worked with during her time in Nepal. With offices in the US, Uganda, Nepal, Ghana, and Guatemala, Days for Girls was chosen for its reach in countries with limited investment in menstrual health and hygiene, and also for its education efforts for boys and men in local communities to combat stigmas.
The Uganda- and UK-based organization Irise International is also featured in the report, highlighted for its research, policy work, and multiple interventions, including a menstruation-friendly school program in Uganda that has reached 6,000 children in 10 schools so far.
“This report is a timely and critical step toward a world where no one is held back by being born female,” said Irise CEO Emily Wilson. “The Kulczyk Foundation have not only established that solving period poverty is worthy of significant investment but have signposted funders towards where their investment can achieve the most impact.”
The other organizations are Inua Dada Foundation in Kenya; NFCC in Nepal; global nonprofit Population Services International; Sesame Workshop’s Girl Talk program in Zimbabwe; Simavi in Europe, Africa, and Asia; and WoMena in Denmark and Uganda.
Combined, the eight organizations require about $10 million to continue their work in the next few years.
Through the Give While You Live campaign, Global Citizen is calling on the world’s billionaires to give away at least 5% of their total wealth annually to achieve the United Nations’ Global Goals, which covers causes like ending period poverty, as well as goals covering health, education, equality, and more.
If all billionaires pledged their money at the rate of Bill Gates, for example, then roughly $575 billion could be raised annually — more than enough to end poverty in the 59 poorest countries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only further highlighted the extreme inequality that exists around the world. Since the pandemic began earlier this year, countries have experienced economic crises and poverty has skyrocketed. Over the same period, the world’s billionaires have netted an additional $2 trillion.
Now that Kulczyk has a clear understanding of the global scope of period poverty and what gaps need to be filled, she’s formulating the next steps in her plan to ensure menstrual health and hygiene everywhere.
For the time being, she hopes the report will help governments and donors more effectively direct their support, and she also wants people around the world to remember one key message.
“We all come from vagina — not from London, not from New York, not from Warsaw,” Kulczyk said. “If you put this perspective to it, then all becomes clear. This is not just a girls’ problem somewhere in Africa, it’s everybody’s bloody problem and we need to really embrace it as soon as possible.”