Mexico City’s new single-use plastic ban has left women in the capital city in a rough position during their menstrual cycles, following the city’s temporary ban of tampons until their plastic applicators are replaced with more environmentally-friendly packaging.

But while Mexico City’s women will undoubtedly suffer temporarily until the situation is resolved, it is nothing compared to the setbacks that Mexican women in rural communities who have been without adequate sanitary products for years face.

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), there are 63 million girls and women in Mexico who are currently going through their menstrual cycle. Of those, 40 percent live in poverty, says research group Fundar.

The fear of their menstrual cycles, it seems, is preventing rural young women from fulfilling their educational requirements. According to UNICEF, 43 percent of Mexican girls and adolescents would rather stay home than go to school when menstruating out of discomfort and embarrassment, which adds up to missing weeks of school per year, creating a gap in education between the girls and their male peers.

The organization also revealed that only 5 percent of Mexican girls and adolescents have been informed properly about menstrual cycles, leaving many in store for a rude awakening filled with confusion and shame once they hit puberty and their own cycle begins, with no idea what products to use to curb the bleeding.

Mexican girls, particularly in rural communities, are afraid of their male peers bullying them for their periods, and take great care to disguise their sanitary products so they don’t face the wrath of their classmates. 

“Girls don’t go to school because they’re afraid to stain their clothes,” Lorena Vázquez Ordaz, executive director of The Hunger Project México, told El Universal in a recent interview.

Products like Playtex’s Sport Compact tampons, which are 30 percent smaller than regular tampons, offer a discrete solution to transporting sometimes bulky sanitary products.

This pocket-sized tampon could be a solution for the problems of rural Mexican women with its small, portable size and 360 degree protection, preventing the dreaded embarrassing leaks and spills from occurring in class. Playtex Sport Compact tampons even adapt to every user’s body, so schoolgirls can still enjoy playing in the schoolyard without fear of “having an accident.”

Having access to these discrete tampons and other sanitary products would allow rural Mexican girls to attend their classes regularly (rather than staying home out of embarrassment) and hopefully stay on track with their education to build a better life and future for themselves, something, unfortunately, a lack of access to sanitary products is preventing many from achieving.

Roadblocks like Mexico’s national tax on tampons also bar many women from adequately supplying themselves with the supplies to handle their monthly cycles, considering the 16 percent IVA adds on an extra cost that inhibits many impoverished women from purchasing them. Activists have been advocating to congress for the end of this tax, in hopes that it will make sanitary products more affordable to the impoverished women who need them most.

While the tampon tax fight rages on, and Mexico City inhabitants are unable to purchase tampons for the time being, it’s important to remember that while a lack of access to these products in urban communities is an inconvenience to us, a lack of access to tampons in rural communities means, to them, a lessened education.

If we want a better future for Mexico’s female population, there’s one simple, if somewhat unorthodox, place to start: tampons.

…Feb. 15, 2021

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