Ending Period Poverty in the UK

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On the 20th December 2017, hundreds of people dressed in red carrying witty, well-illustrated signs, gathered opposite Downing Street to protest for #freeperiods.

For most of us, periods are a nuisance. They’re painful, annoying, and all-around unpleasant. However, the majority of us are privileged enough for them to be just that. When our time of the month comes, we take it for granted that we can pop into our local shop and buy a box of tampons. Personally, I can’t say that this makes me feel particularly lucky – after all, tampons are hardly a luxury item – but 1 in 10 girls simply cannot afford sanitary products, and are reduced to skipping school and taping toilet paper to their knickers each month.

How come we weren’t aware of this? Well, not only are most of us too privileged to even consider the fact that some girls don’t have access to what is, for us, a human right, but thanks to the ridiculous stigma and taboo that surrounds menstruating, lots of these girls are too ashamed to tell even their family about this problem. Why have we been made to feel so ashamed and embarrassed about a normal bodily function experienced by half the population? I’m sure that, for many of us, unexpectedly getting our periods or having a tampon leak was one of our biggest fears at school. It’s an awful feeling; certainly not conducive to learning, and these girls are facing this every single month. In fact, 49% of girls have missed a full day of school due to their period. This is unacceptable, and it needs to end now.

Amika George, an 18 year old student, started the #freeperiods movement in April last year. She is fighting for all 208,000 girls eligible for free school meals to be given free sanitary products as well. Amika teamed up with The Pink Protest, a group of female activists, to help abolish the stigma that surrounds periods and to ask Theresa May to make this goal a reality. In an article for The Guardian explaining her #freeperiods movement, Amika George said, as we live in a world where periods are euphemised and belittled, and blue liquid is preferable to actual blood on TV adverts for sanitary towels, it’s no surprise that they cannot and do not ask for help.’

 

The approximate cost of this mission is £4.78 million, which – amid reports of a Brexit divorce bill costing £45 billion – is nothing. If toilet paper is provided for free in schools, then why aren’t sanitary products too?

What can we do to help? Well, there’s a #freeperiods petition, we can donate money through the Free Periods website, and we can write to our MPs. Most importantly though, it’s time to start talking about periods and help break the taboo for good.

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Third year English Lit and French student on my year abroad in the south of France. Sub-editor at Wessex Scene.

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