Women S Groups Rebuke Zahid S Daughter Over Period Poverty Remark
Women’s groups say period poverty is no laughing matter as many underprivileged girls cannot go to school when they have their period.PETALING JAYA: Period poverty is a major issue in the country and by denying it exists, Nurulhidayah Zahid is speaking from a position of privilege, say women’s groups.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) research and advocacy officer Isabel Chung disagreed with the Umno president’s daughter, and said WAO knew of women who could not afford to buy menstrual pads.
“We have encountered and spoken to women and girls who resort to using unhygienic items like pieces of cloth and coconut husks in place of pads.
“So, we know that period poverty is a real and prevalent issue in this country,” she said, but admitted there were no available statistics and data on the subject.
Chung said the inability to afford feminine hygiene products directly contributed to girls and women missing out on work and school, particularly in rural areas.
“In short, period poverty is an issue that carries long-term effects for the health and education of all people who menstruate.
“It should not be viewed as an inconsequential issue,” she told FMT.
She was responding to a report by Malaysiakini where Nurulhidayah, who is Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s daughter, denied the seriousness of period poverty in Malaysia and claimed that sanitary pads did not cost a lot.
She dismissed claims that women were resorting to getting pregnant in order to avoid periods.
“I am alert to this issue (pregnancy to avoid periods). But it does not happen in Malaysia. Where are the high menstrual pad prices?
“I do research on pads, and I launched a menstrual pad brand so I (would) know,” she was quoted as saying.
However, Chung said the reality was that period poverty exists, and the health and well-being of Malaysian girls and women should be prioritised in times of crisis, regardless of politics and which party was in power.
“Access to adequate facilities to manage menstrual hygiene should be given due attention. Practical and sustainable solutions must be in place to address this issue.”
Chung added that comprehensive data collection on the root causes of period poverty and the taboos surrounding menstruation, could deepen Malaysians’ understanding of the problem.
“It could aid in the development of a comprehensive and sustainable response,” she said.
Bulan Sisters, a youth-led campaign to demystify menstruation and eradicate period poverty in underprivileged communities, also spoke on the level of affordability among those in the bottom 40 (B40) households.
“By looking at the household expenses of B40 families and comparing it to how much a pack of pads costs, simple math and common sense will show you that she (Nurulhidayah) is speaking from a position of privilege.
“Yes, it’s true that giving out free pads isn’t sustainable in the long term, but you cannot just ignore those suffering in the present while waiting for a better solution.
“It’s insensitive for her to make such a remark, unless she has a better suggestion to help alleviate the problem,” the group said.
They added that distributing pads was still the simplest way to alleviate period poverty in the short-term as education and destigmatisation catches up.
Johor Wanita PKR chief Napsiah Khamis also disagreed with Nurulhidayah that period poverty did not exist in the country.
“In fact, I urge the government to take it seriously and find solutions to this problem,” she said in a statement.
Napsiah added that as someone who campaigned on the issue, she had encountered cases of homeless women using tissues in public toilets or strips of clothing from garbage bins.
“There are women who have to use stockings during their periods. Some resort to going back to using batik cloth or old clothes, like how they did 20 years ago, to save cost,” she said.
Napsiah also said some teenage girls did not go to school as they had no sanitary pads.
“How can Nurulhidayah still say there is no period poverty in the country?
“Does Nurulhidayah equate her luxurious life with that of other women? Is poverty a thing to be laughed at?” she said.
Under Budget 2022, the government announced that it would provide free basic personal hygiene kits every month to 130,000 low-income female teenagers to combat period poverty. - FMT
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