The ability to afford daily necessities is a privilege so many people take for granted. Access to food, safety, education and resources is not guaranteed—not by a long shot; and the impact of not having these things is profound.

One powerful example of this is the lack of access to period-care products; this includes feminine hygiene products as well as the things people need when they are menstruating, such as clean water and toilets. It’s called period poverty and its consequences are pretty dire.

Hilary Duff, actor, entrepreneur, singer-songwriter, producer, writer and mother is passionate about improving period poverty—and we were lucky enough to get some time with her to learn more! Duff talked to us about period poverty, why it’s such a big problem and what we can all do to make it better.

What is period poverty?

It’s actually quite simple. Period poverty means someone doesn’t have access to the products and resources they need to properly take care of their periods. This could be a lack of pads or tampons and/or no access to clean water and sanitation. And it’s not just happening in third-world countries. It’s happening in the neighborhoods and communities we live in every single day.

Who is most at risk to experience period poverty?

It’s more widespread than you might realize. 1.2 billion women worldwide can’t afford basic sanitary care. 12 million women in the U.S. live below the poverty line and have limited access to pads and tampons. In California alone, 1 in 3 female students are potentially struggling to get the products they need. It’s a serious problem that affects so many people.

Why is period poverty harmful?

When people don’t have access to the necessary products and resources while they’re menstruating, they can’t live their lives without worrying about how they’ll be able to afford pads or tampons, or how they’ll find clean water to bathe. That takes a toll on someone not only physically of course, but also mentally.

Can you address the stigma surrounding periods and how this might contribute to period poverty?

In some cultures, menstruation is viewed as taboo. Girls and young women are often removed from their homes and exiled when they’re on their periods because it’s considered “dirty” or “impure.” By allowing these types of misconceptions to persist, we make it that much harder for people with periods to get the care they need in an affordable, reliable manner. It becomes a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Is period poverty impacted by the pandemic?

The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, including menstruation. Those who experienced period poverty before the pandemic are almost certainly dealing with it now, if not more so. In the U.S., so many families are facing economic anxiety, which means they’ve got to make tough decisions when they’re shopping for essentials. Sometimes the difference between being able to afford your grocery bill and not being able to is having to choose between pads/tampons and food for dinner.

Why are you passionate about addressing period poverty?

As a young mom raising a daughter, I never want her to feel that she’s any less than just because she gets her period. Spreading this message of period empowerment is so important to me because changing perceptions as a society starts with the conversations we have in our families. We can’t just point out that the problem exists, we have to actually do something about it!

Can you tell us about the campaign with Veeda and the awesome work they are doing?

Project Everywoman invites qualified non-profit organizations to request Veeda tampon donations to go toward efforts in the communities where our products are sold. Veeda has previously partnered with World Vision to donate 75,000 pads and liners to women in Africa, in order to empower women and girls to manage menstruation in a hygienic way with privacy, safety, and dignity. Each month we receive requests from local charities all over the world for our products, and we’re always working with these organizations to make the most difference wherever we can.

How can we support your work with Veeda?

In short: Buy our products! And I’m not just saying that because I’m supposed to. I really love and use them myself, and I’m such a fan because of the eco-friendly materials they’re made of, like natural cotton that’s super soft and comfortable. I can feel good and safe about what I’m putting on my body, and also feel like I’m making a tangible difference because we give back to communities in need.

Are there other ways we can work to combat period poverty?

Volunteer with local charities who provide period products to underserved communities. Donate your time and money as you’re able to. And talk to your friends and family about this issue. The more we can get the word out, the better!

If someone is reading this who experiences period poverty, what can they do?

Reach out to nonprofit organizations in your community and ask about any programming they have that can help you get the products and resources you need.