The first global forum on period poverty — a situation characterised by a lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene facilities, waste management and education to appropriately manage menstruation — is coming to Australia this October.
The Global Period Poverty Forum will see the world’s top leaders in the field unite over three days in Brisbane.
Over 500 million people are thought to face period poverty across the world.
Stigma, shame, miseducation and sexism around menstruation, as well as general rates of global extreme poverty, are all sources of period poverty. Unsurprisingly, the issue disproportionately impacts low-income communities, those living in conflict-affected areas and people in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Rochelle Courtnay, the founder and managing director of Share the Dignity, the Australian organisation behind the forum, said coming together will cut years off the period poverty eradication timeline.
"Period poverty is something that we can completely eradicate if we unite and bring everybody on the journey; governments, brands, corporates and philanthropy,” Courtnay told Global Citizen. “The people who are attending will decide what the goal for the next two years will be; it may be a large body of research, a global advocacy campaign on removing the stigma or ensuring all advocates have the tool to remove the tax on sanitary items in their countries.”
Founder of Freedom4Girls UK Tina Leslie said the forum would be “groundbreaking.”
"The forum is fantastic news to all of us who fight for the menstrual equity of the people we support,” Leslie said in a statement. “I truly believe we all need to keep the issue of period poverty on the worldwide agenda for governments and policy decision-makers, and I believe this forum will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Share the Dignity is perhaps best known for spearheading the successful movement to scrap Australia’s 10% tampon tax, which previously saw the critical sanitary product taxed as a luxury item. The charity’s 2018 petition, which recorded over 100,000 signatures, is now widely considered the final push in a fiery, two-decade-long campaign effort.
A 2021 survey by Share the Dignity revealed 1 in 5 Australians are forced to use unsuitable alternatives because they could not afford pads, tampons or menstrual cups. Almost half of all 125,000 survey participants said they missed at least one day of school because of their period.
Over 3 million Australians live below the relative poverty line, more than half of whom are women and young girls.
The organisation has donated 3 million packets of pads and tampons to Australians in need since its inception in 2015.
The Global Period Poverty Forum in 2024 will take place in Singapore.