Period Poverty in Papua New Guinea affects women near and far
Papua New Guinea is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, according to Lindsey Copley, the daughter of two missionaries. At the age of 18 months, Copley moved to Hewa, Papua New Guinea and has witnessed the difficulties women face on a daily basis.
“I think nine out of 10 women experience domestic abuse there… and that’s just something that is expected,” Copley said.
Generation after generation, women have been put at a disadvantage and seen as unclean due to period poverty. Also known as menstrual insecurity, it is a lack of access to sanitary products for women to use during their periods, according to Copley.
“[Women are] only limited to the resources they have in the jungle, so they’ve been using moss and dirty rags they have laying around the hut,” Copley said.
Brooke Pearson, a graphic designer and friend of Copley, spent her summer listening to podcasts about environmental sustainability. Pearson realized that while she has never had to worry about her menstrual security, the same cannot be said about millions of women.
“Menstrual poverty is happening in schools… or a lot of times [to] homeless women, or in prisons, third world countries…,” Pearson said.
Through their friendship and a casual conversation, Copley and Pearson realized they had the same conviction to help women facing menstrual insecurity.
“[Copley] had been wanting to give back to her childhood community…the same way with the women,” Pearson said. “It was really cool how we connected and just at the right time… and decided we need to do something, even if it’s a little controversial…”
With the help of menstrual cups, social media and conversations, Copley and Pearson believe they can make a difference for the women of Hewa, Papua New Guinea and eventually on a more global level.
To make their first steps towards a change, Copley and Pearson had to inform others about the taboo subject. Even though it is an uncomfortable topic for most people, Copley and Pearson are aware that menstrual poverty needs to be a conversation because half of the world’s population has periods and millions are burdened by them.
“[We have been] learning the graceful way to communicate…,” Pearson said. “It’s such unmarked territory that you do have to kind of present it in a way that’s not [going to] get your audience grossed out and run.”
Social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, have been the biggest tool for Copley and Pearson to raise awareness about their mission and receive donations.
“[Pearson] uses a lot of her art.... and I have a lot of pictures of the women,” Copley said. “So we’ve been able to...get those faces out there and... hope that connections be made with just making it more real life.”
To achieve their goals, Copley and Pearson decided to purchase menstrual cups rather than other alternatives because they are sustainable. According to Pearson, a menstrual cup can be used for 30 years when sanitized properly. Ruby Cup, the company from which Copley purchases, is also making a global impact.
“For every menstrual cup that you buy from [Ruby Cup], they donate a menstrual cup and a menstrual education book,” Pearson said. “We are purchasing 50 for Hewa and they donate to [East] African women…. A hundred women will receive a menstrual cups and… education about that.”
Through their efforts, Pearson and Copley hope to see a change in the future for not only the women of Hewa, Papua New Guinea, but women everywhere burdened by menstrual insecurity.
“[Hewa is] like a home to me, so now I’ll go back at some point,” Copley said. “I’m hoping to see [the impact] first hand.”
By Rachida Harper