This piece was written by one of our contributors; Cardiff University medical student Roshni Patel
Period poverty is a topic of increasing interest – which we are happy to see gain more and more exposure! The term has sparked so much interest that many people are taking to social media to raise awareness about the issue. The popularity of the term may be growing, however sadly, this is not a new or recent issue – it has been an ongoing problem for many years.
Period poverty – What is it?
By definition, period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management. Sadly, it exists worldwide. This isn’t just an issue that has arisen in developing countries, but many girls and women in the UK also experience period poverty. One of the latest report by Plan International UK reveals that 10% of girls in the UK experience period poverty, in that they’ve been unable to afford sanitary products alongside 14% of girls who have struggled to afford sanitary products (1).
In young people, there is a great deal of embarrassment associated with periods, especially when first starting to have them. For girls, not only are periods a big aspect of puberty but they’re a scary change – a change which takes time getting used to and becoming familiar with. The difficulties that come with this change are different for each individual person. However, these experiences are completely different for those who, for example, have to miss school because of inadequate access to sanitary products or who have an increased risk of infection due to prolonged use of the same tampons or pads. Unfortunately, there’s still a great deal of taboo around the subject of periods, making people even more reluctant to ask for help when needed.
It’s disheartening to know that sanitary products, which for all females are an essential item, are classed as a luxury for those who are unable to afford it. There’s also the problem of menstrual hygiene. “We Keep It A Secret So No-one Should Know,” a study by Mason et al 2013 (2), outlines that thousands of girls are missing school because of not have adequate sanitary products whilst menstruating. These people are losing out on their right of education and hygiene – that’s not fair.
Recent changes in the UK
An announcement by the government this year followed the free provision of sanitary products across all secondary schools and colleges across England and have pledged that by early 2020, free sanitary products will be offered to all girls in primary schools in England. Hopefully, this initiative will help reduce the number of girls living in period poverty and help break the stigma around periods.
What can we do about it?
There are a number of things that can be done to help tackle period poverty. Even though a solution may not be achieved immediately – every little effort to try and stop it can help.
Raise awareness – the more we can get the word to spread, the more people will be inclined to take on new initiatives and come up with new ideas of how we can help
Let’s talk about it – it’s time to ditch the stigma around periods and start talking about it. The more people talk about it, the more comfortable girls will become in discussing their concerns
Support charities and organisations – I’m sure most of you may have seen donations boxes here and there which instead of money are for donating sanitary products for people who are experiencing period poverty
- Bloody Good Period is an initiative started by Gabby Edlin, who decided something needed to be done to put an end to period poverty (3). Bloody Good Period now supplies 25 asylum seeker drop in centres based in London and Leeds, with an aim of expanding this further (3).
- Binti is a registered charity which aims to provide menstrual dignity to all girls, all over the world (4). Binti’s work ethics and mantra focusses on availability, affordability and awareness and the core aspects of menstrual dignity mission are access, education and de-stigmatisation (4).
Help on-the-go – Carry a few extra pads and tampons with you for women living on the streets
Let’s give a little – Donate a pack of tampons to your local food bank
1. Vora. CTS. Break the Barriers: our Menstrual Manifesto | Plan International UK. Plan international UK. 2018.
2. Mason L, Nyothach E, Alexander K, Odhiambo F, Eleveld A, Vulule J, et al. ‘We Keep It Secret So No One Should Know’ – A Qualitative Study to Explore Young Schoolgirls Attitudes and Experiences with Menstruation in Rural Western Kenya. 2013.
3. Edlin G. Bloody Good Period 2018 [Available from: https://www.bloodygoodperiod.com/about
4. Period B. About Binti — Binti 2017 [Available from: https://bintiperiod.org/about-binti