The real price of pe­ri­ods

The shock­ing rea­son some girls are skip­ping school

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS -

Four in 10 teach­ers have re­sorted to sup­ply­ing stu­dents with their own tam­pons and pads.

San­i­tary prod­ucts are es­sen­tial for most women when they reach a cer­tain age.

We have a stash in our bath­room, emer­gency sup­plies in our hand­bags.

Be­ing caught short is un­think­able.

But for many, it’s a sad re­al­ity.

Be­cause for girls and women up and down the coun­try, san­i­tary pro­tec­tion is a lux­ury they can’t af­ford.

So-called ‘pe­riod poverty’ sounds like some­thing from the dis­tant past.

But it’s hit the head­lines re­cently af­ter re­search re­vealed that 137,700 girls missed school last year be­cause they couldn’t af­ford san­i­tary prod­ucts.

The re­search also found that six per cent of par­ents have been so des­per­ate to pre­vent their daugh­ters suf­fer­ing the hu­mil­i­a­tion of not hav­ing san­i­tary prod­ucts, that they’ve re­sorted to shoplift­ing. And 20 per cent of par­ents are go­ing with­out other es­sen­tial items in or­der to buy their daugh­ters san­i­tary prod­ucts. While the causes of poverty are com­plex, many be­lieve a sim­ple so­lu­tion to the is­sue of pe­riod poverty is end­ing the tam­pon tax. At present, five per cent VAT is charged on all san­i­tary prod­ucts as they are deemed to be ‘ lux­ury nonessen­tial’ items. Non-es­sen­tial? Tell that to the seven per cent of teenagers the re­search found to be miss­ing on av­er­age five days of school a year due to their in­abil­ity to af­ford these so-called lux­u­ries. Cam­paign­ers ar­gue san­i­tary prod­ucts are es­sen­tial, and want the tax abol­ished. More than 320,000 signed a pe­ti­tion call­ing on the Gov­ern­ment to scrap the tax in 2015.

In Au­gust 2017, Tesco scrapped the VAT charge, pay­ing the five per cent them­selves – the first Bri­tish su­per­mar­ket to do so – shortly fol­lowed by Waitrose.

A few or­gan­i­sa­tions are cam­paign­ing and pro­vid­ing free san­i­tary pro­tec­tion to young girls.

The char­ity Free­dom 4 Girls started by pro­vid­ing free san­i­tary pro­tec­tion for girls in Kenya, only to find the same is­sue hap­pen­ing here.

It now pro­vides san­i­tary prod­ucts to 30 schools, pri­mar­ily in West York­shire.

‘We’ve met women and girls who use all sorts to re­lieve the is­sue – T-shirts, toi­let roll, even in­soles of their shoes,’ says Vic­to­ria Abra­hams, vol­un­teer trustee from Free­dom 4 Girls.

‘Women and girls can’t help the fact they have pe­ri­ods, and pe­ri­ods shouldn’t be seen as some­thing that can be com­mod­i­fied where san­i­tary prod­ucts are lux­ury items.’

The Red Box Project, a com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion that launched in March 2017, also dis­trib­utes 626 boxes of san­i­tary prod­ucts to schools across the UK.

They’re cur­rently work­ing with Al­ways, which is do­nat­ing one san­i­tary towel to those in

11% of girls ad­mit to wear­ing san­i­tary pro­tec­tion longer than for they should in or­der to save money, de­spite it risk­ing their health.

need, for ev­ery pack bought.

A study by Al­ways also showed that over half of women who have ex­pe­ri­enced pe­riod poverty be­lieve it has had a di­rect ef­fect on their suc­cess, con­fi­dence and hap­pi­ness as an adult.

Anna Miles, Founder of The Red Box Project, says, ‘We hear from many women that suf­fer­ing from pe­riod poverty at school can have a huge knock-on ef­fect later in life.

‘They re­mem­ber the fear, em­bar­rass­ment and shame they felt, and this can have a real im­pact on them.’

But ed­u­ca­tion about the is­sue is also im­por­tant, so young girls don’t feel em­bar­rassed about hav­ing a pe­riod.

It’s A Monthly Thing, of­fers work­shops to schools to ed­u­cate both boys and girls about pe­ri­ods – help­ing pupils to un­der­stand the phys­i­cal and emo­tional changes that hap­pen dur­ing the men­strual cy­cle.

‘As well as do­nat­ing 50,000 san­i­tary items to schools, we’re also of­fer­ing a new ser­vice as part of our sub­scrip­tion box ser­vices whereby users can re­turn un­wanted, un­used pe­riod prod­ucts to us and we’ll reis­sue them to vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in need. These go to home­less women, girls in schools and to women in prison,’ says Claire Black­more, from It’s A Monthly Thing.

Such good work – but there’s still more that could be done...

The Red Box project would love to see per­ma­nent and freely ac­ces­si­ble san­i­tary boxes in ev­ery pri­mary and sec­ondary school set­ting, which pupils can then use at any time – no ques­tions asked.

Danielle Row­ley, MP for Mid­loth­ian, made his­tory ear­lier this year for declar­ing she was on her pe­riod in the House of Com­mons dur­ing a de­bate on pe­riod poverty. She said, ‘I would like to raise with you to­day and to the House, and per­haps you’ll ex­cuse me for my late­ness, that to­day I’m on my pe­riod – and it’s cost me this week al­ready £25.’

For many, pe­ri­ods re­main an em­bar­rass­ing and taboo sub­ject.

But the is­sue of pe­riod poverty is too se­ri­ous for us to ig­nore.

The Red Box Project gives prod­ucts to schools

MP Danielle Row­ley

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