Period Poverty is still a reality in the UK. What is being done?

17 de abril de 2019

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

One in ten girls in the UK can’t afford sanitary products, says survey. The Government Equalities Office has announced a campaign to end period poverty globally by 2030.

By Andreia Jorge Rodrigues

According to the global rights charity Plan International UK, one in ten girls can’t afford sanitary products, while more than one in ten girls has had to improvise sanitary products because they couldn’t buy them. Some are forced to use toilet paper or socks as an absorbent, so they won’t miss classes. It also revealed that 27 per cent of UK girls have used a period product for longer than they should because they couldn’t afford to buy more.
The same survey, based on Opinium Research survey carried out online by 1,000 girls and young women aged 14-21, found out that 48 per cent of girls are embarrassed by their periods and 71 per cent admitted that they have felt embarrassed while buying sanitary products.

Another survey announced on 19 February 2019 and conducted by Gingercomms with campaigners at the Bloody Big Brunch, discovered that 51 per cent of UK population has suffered from period poverty or know someone who has experienced it. The survey, who questioned 931 people across England, Scotland and Wales, found out that 26 per cent of girls has missed school or work while on their periods.

Lee Beattie, of the Bloody Big Brunch, told ITV News: “As a society, we need to send out the message that menstruation isn’t dirty, and it certainly isn’t a luxury.”
On a statement published at Plan International UK, their Campaign Manager, Lucy Russell, said: “Period poverty is a very real challenge facing many girls in the UK. For too many girls, dealing with period each month is proving a tough challenge – and in 21st century Britain, this shouldn’t be the case.”

How can period poverty come to an end?

According to the Government Equalities Office (GEO), last month, the International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, announced a new UK government campaign which has the intention to break the silence and end period poverty globally by 2030.
The campaign is a joint force between the government, which includes the Department of Health, Department of Education and Department for Work and Pensions, businesses and charities. It is supported by £250,000 to develop new ideas to tackle period poverty in the UK and includes a £2 million in UK aid support, through the Department of International Development (DFID), to help organisations which are already working to end period poverty around the world.
On the announcement’s speech, which took place at the Church House on the 4 March, Penny Mordaunt said: “empowerment starts when you are young. Girls should be able to focus on their education and their future without being worried about or embarrassed by their periods.
According to the press release provided by the Government, since 1 April, the GEO is part of the Cabinet Office, “to ensure is at the heart of the government’s work on equalities.”

Some charities and organisations have expressed their reactions to this new campaign. Celia Hodson, founder of Hey Girls, a social enterprise who aims to end period poverty in the UK, said: “I’m confident that given recent reports highlighting Period Poverty has significantly increased and the high percentage of women and girls struggling to access menstrual products this initiative will receive cross-sector support and should be widely supported by cross-party members.”

Ruby Raut, CEO, and Co-Founder of WUKA, a company which creates eco-friendly period wear, was also very pleased to hear about the GEO campaign and said: “Period poverty is a huge issue for those girls and women from low-income families or who are homeless. They are left with very little choices and end up using dirty items of clothing, inserting plastic or overusing a pad or tampon which is unhygienic and a huge health problem for women.

Last month, the National Health Service (NHS) has also announced that NHS England will offer free tampons and other sanitary products in hospitals from this summer. According to BBC, “while some hospitals already provide sanitary products, NHS England said it would now be mandated in the new standard contract with hospitals for 2019-20.”

Another way to end period poverty is through education, as data suggests that many girls and women are embarrassed to talk about their periods and feel disgusted during “that time of the month. On a statement published on Plan International UK, Russell said: “Education is critical to solving this problem; because it’s only by learning and talking about periods that we can smash the idea that they’re a source of shame to be dealt with in secret, rather than a perfectly normal bodily process.”

Amika George is the face of the #FreePeriods campaign, which started in 2017 to break down the stigma around menstruation. After being recognized as one of the most influential teens of 2018 by Time Magazine, the young Londoner told Teen Vogue: “We need everyone to write about it, to talk about it.” As she insisted: “a normal biological process affecting half of the world’s population shouldn’t stop any of us from being the best version of ourselves. Let’s praise the period and tell everyone you meet about how bloody remarkable our bodies are.

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