Period poverty is characterized by the lack of access to period hygiene products and education. This may include, but not limited to, sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management. While the term "period poverty" is new to the medical literature, menstrual hygiene management has been researched for decades in the context of the gender gap in schooling for adolescents in low- and middle-income countries.
According to a 2014 UNESCO report, one out of every ten menstruating teenagers miss school throughout their menstrual cycle due to a lack of access to menstrual products and services. Menstruators in impoverished countries, for example, are more likely to use paper, old garments, leaves, cotton, etc., instead of more typical menstruation products such as disposable pads or tampons. Many schools in underdeveloped countries lack suitable facilities, water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities, finding it challenging for individuals to manage their menstrual cycle safely.
The inability to utilize these facilities makes it more difficult for menstruators to manage their periods properly and with dignity. Furthermore, people with special needs and disabilities have a disproportionate lack of access to the facilities and resources they require for adequate menstrual hygiene. Having to live in conflict-affected regions, or in the event of a natural disaster, furthermore makes it increasingly challenging for menstruators to handle their periods.
The topic of period poverty is also heavily stigmatized. Due to this, the issues surrounding it are often left unaddressed. Many cultures regard menstruation as filthy and something to be avoided. As a result, there is a lack of discussion about access to menstrual products, the tax on these goods, and even the substances that they contain. The experience of menstruation as a trans person is stigmatized as well. Media continue to portray menstruation as a female-only event, yet this is not the case. Many people who are not women menstruate, and not all women menstruate.