Period Poverty In Bandung

Period Poverty In Bandung

Period Poverty In Bandung

Sanandha Prabu Sinarmas World Academy

According to the World Bank, the pandemic has caused about 1.8 million individuals from all over the world to become unemployed (as of February 2020 to February 2021). In addition to this, 2.8 million people have fallen into poverty.[2] In 2020, The World Bank had classified Indonesia as an Upper Middle Income country before the COVID crisis. The global pandemic has had a drastic impact on the economic status, making Indonesia a Lower Middle Income country with a per capita income of 3.979 USD. This shows that a larger number of people are being pushed into poverty due to the loss of jobs and livelihoods.

In addition to general poverty, period poverty is prevalent among women in many developing countries. Period poverty is when women do not have or do not have enough access to period products, such as sanitary napkins, menstrual cups, tampons, etc. This lack of access to period products is due to financial constraints and a variety of other factors.

This study was done in order to understand the real extent of period poverty and to analyse whether the general assumptions are true. These assumptions prevent the community from continuing in the fight against period poverty.

Purpose Of The Study
1) To find out the struggles poor women face during their periods 2) To understand, empathise and to take action in regards to period poverty. 3) To show the extent of risks these women take due to the lack of access to period products.


  1. To look into the demographics, gain insight on the lifestyle and economic background of each respondent.
  2. To find out the products used by the respondents below the poverty line to go through with their monthly period.
  3. To gain insight about how much money respondents spend on period products.
  4. To understand the challenges faced by the respondents during their period when it comes to privacy and safety.

1. The rise in the COVID-19 cases in Bandung,which restricted me to only interview30 people
2. It was aimed to make a documentary about the lives of these women but it was not possible due to the current global pandemic, making the final product a report only.

I am actively running my own project, Semua Sehat. I distribute packets to poor women. Up till now, I have distributed more than 100 packets (contained feminine hygiene products as well as some edibles). Semua Sehat also motivated me to investigate more about period poverty amongst the street women in Bandung. The issues faced by the vulnerable women in our society calls for action from kind people. These are just some of the many questions that led me to do this study: How do the women on the street protect themselves from danger? Are women on the streets even aware of the potential dangers? How do they manage during their period? What about their income?.

Manusia Gerobak, also known as cart people, spend their time collecting recyclable items, such as cardboard boxes and/or plastic bottles. The image below displays a family who belong to the manusia gerobak community. The items they collect will later be exchanged with money (Rp.2,000/kg).

The gerobak people use their cart as a mobile home. They take shelter at night inside their cart. The cart usually measures approximately 150 cm x 40 cm x 100 cm. The women take shelter at night inside the cart with their children to hide away from the dangers lurking outside (such as harassment, sexual abuse and other types of violence). The men sleep outside, near the cart or on the side of the road since they are considered as ‘less vulnerable’. The cart is their home on wheels and it also helps them to make a living.

Other than the manusia gerobak, there are also another type of trash collectors that I have interviewed in this study. These people are called pemulung, and carry a sack (usually white) on their back. Usually, these are individuals, since pulling a cart is too much labour for one person to do. The picture on the right displays 2 pemulungs, recipients of the Semua Sehat packets.

Period Poverty In Bandung

My inspiration for this project is Operation Period (OP), an organisation based in Oregon, United States, that aims to break the stigma of periods around the world. I am very grateful for their support when I first started this project. In addition to this, I am a graphic designer at OP, making me learn more about issues related to periods. One of the issues which caught my attention was period poverty. I have never heard of this term before. I had no idea that period poverty is a real issue that real people have to put up with. I am sure that there are so many people, especially in Indonesia, that are not aware of period poverty and how it affects individuals.

Menstruation in general is a taboo topic in Indonesia. So instead of using the word Menstruasi, people in Indonesia use the period euphemism ‘Mens’, which is short for Menstruation. This may be due to the social and/or cultural factors present. Therefore, menstrual hygiene is not discussed openly. This causes the lack of awareness about reproductive health. This then leads to uninformed unhealthy decisions that are hazardous in the long run. With this situation as the background, I started Semua Sehat to prioritise women’s personal hygiene, especially the individuals who live on the road. I give them packets to spare them the expenses of period products for a month and some food.

I expect that the respondents will use cloth and other materials to use during their period as a substitute for proper period products. Some examples include tissue, towels, and other cheap materials. This is because sanitary napkins need to be changed regularly and the genital area has to be kept clean to prevent the individual from catching any infections or diseases. I also expect that buying period products will be their last priority.

Information for this study was derived by interviewing the 30 poor women seen on the streets. A questionnaire was developed to elucidate information from the respondents

Summary Of Findings
Based on the interviews conducted, the following are the important findings:

Part 1 : Demographics

Most of the respondents originate from Garut and Bandung, married and above 46 The majority of the respondents got married was 20. The most common means of income of the respondent’s husband is trash collecting. The level of education of the respondents is mostly Elementary School. The respondents mostly have 2 children. Among the children 54% are going to school 46% are not going to school due to the lack of money.

Part 2 : Lifestyle

Most of the women who were interviewed are trash collectors. The number of meals eaten are usually 2 in a day. The food is usually bought in the warung (small shop). Most of the respondents sleep on the roadside. The respondent’s clothing is usually bought in the pasar (market) once a year.

Part 3 : Menstruation & Period Poverty

All respondents have access to toilets, which are usually at nearby masjids. Majority of the respondents are active menstruators. Difficulties faced by the respondents during their period disrupts their daily routine. Most of the respondents use sanitary napkins during their period The number of pads used per month by the respondents are mostly 0 and 2 Information in regards to menstruation is usually shared through friends. How We Should Take Action

More donation drives can be done. Some examples include food drives, used clothes donations, menstrual products drive, toiletries drive, etc. An action anyone can do is to not throw away uneaten food. This food can be donated to the individuals on the streets. Financial support is needed for the education of the children. This can help them to come out of poverty. Women should be given more awareness about the dangers of neglecting proper menstrual hygiene. Good samaritans can help by establishing a “Pad Bank”, which can store free pads for street women which can be accessed at any time. A group of street women can be trained and taught how to make reusable cloth pads which are more eco friendly and sustainable. The reusable cloth pads will then be distributed to the other street women which will be an eco-friendly solution to eradicate period poverty. Another action which can be taken is to provide a skill-development programme so that they can have better opportunities. Free workshops to explain about the potential dangers of living as a woman on the streets, to explain the risks of not maintaining proper menstrual hygiene for the women below the poverty line to make the women more aware of the dangers.

More people need to be educated about period poverty in order for a positive change to take place. This is because if more people (especially street women) are more aware about the risks of not maintaining proper menstrual hygiene, medical problems can be avoided in regards to reproductive health.

I have learned that period poverty is a significant issue in Bandung and as mentioned, more action in relation to this social issue needs to be taken. Further studies in regards to the lives of manusia gerobak women and other women trash collectors need to be conducted. Some study ideas include the lives of the children of trash collectors and a deeper look into the safety of street women against crime. As a whole, the lives of the street women can be improved and period poverty can be eradicated.

Many people think that period poverty is not prevalent. Many people also do not have knowledge about what period poverty is. The tabooness of periods has blinded society from period poverty that is affecting the lives of so many. It is time that we take this invisible blindfold off and find a sustainable solution for period poverty in Bandung. Besides, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable our society is. It is about time we increase our compassion and action for the individuals on the streets.

JaRI has received an interesting paper made by Sananda Prabu titled “A glimpse into the lives of women trash collectors in Bandung”.

One of JaRI’s slogan is to support “Anak sehat” and this paper is an illustration of how a healthy adolescent made a small study and write the report based on her concern for the poor women in Bandung. Sanandha Phrabu was 15 years old when she conducted a study “Peiod poverty” among street women in Bandung.

Now she is 16 and in her last year in high school, the complete paper can be accessed in the following link


“Period Poverty: Womens Health: Royal College of Nursing.” The Royal College of Nursing, www.rcn.org.uk/clinical-topics/womens-health/promoting-menstrual-wellbeing/perio d-poverty.

[1] “What Is Poverty?” Habitat for Humanity, www.habitat.org/stories/what-is-poverty.
[2] “Indonesia Economic Prospects (IEP), June 2021: Boosting the Recovery.” World Bank, www.worldbank.org/en/country/indonesia/publication/indonesia-economic-prospect s-iep-june-2021- boosting-the-recovery.

[3] husna, Asma ul, et al. “6 Health Risks of Poor Menstrual Hygiene.” In Sync Blog by Nua, 16 Mar. 2021, www.nuawoman.com/blog/6-health-risks-poor-menstrual-hygiene/.

“Overview.” World Bank, www.worldbank.org/en/country/indonesia/overview

[4] “Dictionary by Merriam- Webster: America’s Most-Trusted Online Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/.
[5] “English Dictionary, Translations & Thesaurus.” Cambridge Dictionary, www.dictionary.cambridge.org/.
[6] Santos-Longhurst, Adrienne. “How Often Should You Change Your Pad?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 15 Dec. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/menstruation/how-often-should-you-change-your-pad# per-day.

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