Period poverty refers to a lack of access to sanitary protection due to financial constraints and is the reality affecting young women across the country. According to Plan International UK, one in 10 girls in the UK are unable to afford hygiene products and are missing school as a result. For a country that has the 5th largest economy in the world, this is a disgrace.
The outcome is that girls in the UK are using inappropriate sanitary substitutes such as socks or newspaper or just missing out on school whilst on their period because they are unable to afford sanitary protection.
“Periods are a natural process that are a part of nearly every girl’s life. But without access to…sanitary products, girls’ lives are put on hold during their period, as they have little choice but to stay at home.”
ActionAid commenting on 1 in 10 female students missing school across sub-Saharan Africa but sadly in the UK we are suffering the same problem.
Period poverty isn’t by any means a new problem, but the actions of 18-year-old activist Amika George, who launched her #freeperiods movement on Twitter, have recently ignited conversations in the media.
Amika George started the movement in April 2017 after reading a report about children who regularly miss school for up to a week per month, due to not being able to afford adequate sanitary supplies. The #freeperiods movement gradually started picking up momentum and ended the year on a high with a peaceful protest on December 20th 2017, calling for Prime Minister Theresa May to “provide free menstruation products for all girls already on free school meals”.
The #freeperiods movement estimated that the cost of supplying sanitary products to children on free school meals would be around £4.78 million. This is a minimal amount considering that over 44 billion pounds is currently spent on defence each year which is a fraction of the budget allocated to Education.
So, what’s the answer?
Yes, the Government needs to do more to tackle the situation, but equally as important, our attitudes need to change around periods; we need to eliminate the shame and embarrassment surrounding a girl’s ‘time of the month’. This is not simply a women’s issue, and as long as half the population are ignoring the conversation, then the Government will continue to dismiss the issue and it’s impact on young women.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Positive actions are currently happening in the UK with Scotland to be the ‘first country in the world’ to provide free sanitary products in all schools, colleges and universities from Autumn 2018.
Here at the National Schools Partnership we are extremely proud to be part of the ‘About You’ Always and Tampax Puberty Education programme, providing thousands of secondary schools and young women with free sanitary wear and access to free Puberty Education resources.
This school year alone we have reached over 300,000 girls with our free sample products (including information leaflets for students and parents) and provided 2,343 teachers with access to a wealth of downloadable resources and free demonstration kits.
If you or anyone you know teaches 11-14 year olds please feel free to register for the ‘About You’ Puberty Education Programme or simply spread the word! #EndPeriodPoverty
Register your school here – simple click the Register now! button.
We plan to reach even more girls next school year and provide continued support to as many teachers as we can. Let’s keep up the good work and continue the conversation!
Join the conversation and comment below. Have you been a part of the ‘About You’ Puberty Education Programme? What do you think should be included next year? What do you think should be taught in puberty education? Had you heard of the initiative before?