What's the scariest thing about Halloween for you? Is it the children dressed in ghoul and goblin costumes? The horror movies that make you at least a little bit afraid of the dark for the night? The impending stomach ache from over consumption of candy?
For many women, the scariest part about Halloween, and the rest of the year, is that they don't have access to regular menstrual resources. According the Huffington Post, “Tampons and sanitary pads usually top the list of needs at shelters, since they’re pricey and supporters don’t often donate them.” Due to the societal taboo around menstruation and discussing it, many people don’t know the incredible need for these resources or feel uncomfortable collecting these products. However, their discomfort can result in disastrous effects for women in need.
“Homeless women are already at risk for mental setbacks. Not being able to maintain their feminine hygiene leaves them feeling helpless, ashamed and vulnerable, and that cycles them back into depression” (Governing.com). Some shelters don’t have the resources to provide the people in their care enough products. A few people interviewed said that some places only provided 5 pads for an entire cycle. According to Governing.com, “women who don’t have access to the proper materials have to resort to...socks and rags that aren’t clean -- to absorb their flow and keep the rest of their clothes from getting soiled. Most women menstruate for between four and seven days. That kind of prolonged exposure to dirty and soiled items can lead to a vaginal infection, which experts say can suppress the reproductive tract’s natural defenses and weaken the immune system. That in turn can make a woman more vulnerable to the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which is a cause of cervical cancer.”
In other words, while ignoring the issues of menstruation may save a few people some undeserved embarrassment, in the grand scheme of life, it harms the very group that needs the most help with this: homeless women. When it comes to this monthly healthcare access, homeless women are completely dependent on the charity of shelters and other non-profits, which puts them in a dangerously vulnerable position. And while many charities and shelters mean well, the lack of menstrual resources can physically and mentally endanger these women’s lives while further affirming the idea that their needs are always worth less than others.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some charities, such as Camions of Care, work to fight this taboo and provide the necessary menstrual resources to these women in need. As of Halloween 2015, Camions of Care has distributed 3984 care packages (each care package covers one menstrual cycle) to homeless and impoverished women around the world, all the while providing opportunities to discuss the issues surrounding menstruation and fighting the social stigma every step of the way.
So in part with giving away candy to ecstatic kids, we ask people give a few dollars to a charity that can do so much potential good for people in need. Each care package, which provides an entire cycle worth of clean materials, only costs $2. Donations can be given at www.camionsofcare.org/donate.
While some people want to be scared on Halloween through whatever medium they choose, these women just want their nightmare to be a thing of the past permanently, but that can only be achieved through community support. So this Halloween, we hope shelters get the resources they need to help these women. We hope to fight the stigma and taboo around menstruation that can cause these issues. We hope to create a world in which next Halloween, Halloween is no longer associated by homeless women with a constant worry for their health.
And above all we hope everyone has a spooky (but safe) Halloween!