The problem with ‘period poverty’

Girls from low-income families across the UK are skipping school during their periods – because they can’t afford sanitary products.

The issue of ‘period poverty’ in the UK came to light after a police officer working at a school in Leeds discovered high levels of truancy amongst girls – and it turned out they and their families couldn’t afford tampons and pads when they were menstruating.

It’s estimated that women spend £20,000 on sanitary products during their lifetime. In Leeds, some girls were relying on parents for support, while others didn’t go to school altogether. Stories have come to light of girls taping toilet roll to their underwear or using socks rather than pads.

Truancy, or leaving school altogether, when menstruation begins is a common problem in developing countries, and a number of charities currently work to help girls stay in education by providing sanitary products, improving toilet facilities and combating the stigma attached to menstruation. Some of them are now starting up projects closer to home to help make sure British girls don’t miss out either.

Freedom4Girls, which works to support girls in Kenya, is now working in West Yorkshire too, giving girls back their dignity and ensuring their education isn’t disrupted.

Bodyform have pledged to donate 200,000 packets of personal care products in conjunction with In Kind Direct by 2020, to be distributed free of charge through 5,000 charitable organisations across the UK.

“These latest reports are in line with research from our own Hygiene Matters report which found 40 per cent of UK girls have felt that their period has kept them from leading a full and active life at school,” explains SCA’s Marketing Director for Bodyform, Nicola Coronado. “As a manufacturer of these essential products, we feel incredibly moved by this and we see this commitment as the first step in helping to combat these issues. Alongside campaigns such as The Homeless Period, we can overcome the taboo of talking about menstruation while ensuring sanitary products are reaching those most in need.”

And there are ways in which you can help. You can make a donation to Freedom4Girls. You can donate sanitary wear to your nearest Trussell Trust food bank. You can also donate to The Homeless Period, which works with homeless women and girls.

No one should have to miss school because of simple biology. Do your bit to make sure they don’t.

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