period poverty in the U.K.
Period poverty happens when people are unable to afford or access proper period products due to low income. The average period lasts around five days, costing Scottish people around $10 a month for period products. Period poverty is a global issue that is not receiving enough attention. The U.K. is the first country to take significant steps to reduce period poverty. Here is some information about period poverty in the United Kingdom.

Period Poverty in the United Kingdom

In 2020, more than 2,000 people took a survey in schools, colleges and universities around Scotland. The results showed that one in four respondents was unable to access period products.

According to a Plan International report from 2017, a British children’s charity, period poverty affects one in 10 British girls aged 14 to 21. Furthermore, 49% of girls across the U.K. admitted to having missed a day of school because of their inability to access period products.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Period Poverty

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, period poverty in the U.K. has increased. Before the pandemic, low-income British residents often accessed period products through schools or community centers. However, after the lockdown, they no longer had such access.

Bloody Good Period and Freedom4Girls, founded in 2016 and 2017, respectively, are two national charities that focus on improving the accessibility of period products and reducing the stigma around periods. Bloody Good Period distributes products to 40 drop-in services and groups in the U.K. and to more than 2,000 people each month. In 2020, both charities saw drastic increases in their products’ distributions. Before the pandemic, Bloody Good Period typically distributed around 5,000-period packs a month, but the number grew to 23,000 in the three months after March 2020. Similarly, Freedom4Girls’ production increased fivefold.

Scotland’s Efforts to Alleviate Period Poverty

In 2020, Scotland made history as the first country to make period products free for all. Monica Lennon, a member of the Scottish Parliament, introduced the Period Products Bill, which passed in November 2020. Lennon has been fighting for an end to period poverty since 2016 and was finally able to gain significant attention for the cause in 2020, when more girls began to suffer from period poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Scottish government funded the period poverty campaign with 5.2 million euros. Of this money, the government set half a million euros aside to deliver free period products to residents of low-income neighborhoods.

Additionally, the U.K. government has created its own period poverty task force. The task force’s main goals are to destigmatize periods, educate people on periods and ensure that period products are widely accessible.

The Red Box Project

Similarly, in Portsmouth, England, three women decided to start a movement to end period poverty. They sympathized with low-income teenage girls who could not afford period products and recognized that period poverty impacts both current and future mental health and well-being. It started its campaign, the Red Box Project, in March 2017. The Red Box Project fills red boxes with pads and tampons and gives them to schools. The Red Box Project has placed boxes in more than 2,200 schools, colleges and youth clubs. As word of the project spread, its founders started to push for governmental action against period poverty. As a result of national efforts, in January 2020, Britain’s Department for Education made period products freely available to all state schools and colleges in England.

The actions that some are taking to reduce period poverty in the United Kingdom should provide other countries hope as they fight similar battles. With passionate, driven residents and new legislation, women around the world can begin to live in peace.

Shamolie Panjwani
Photo: Flickr

Victoria Heaney and Free Period Scotland MovementPeriod poverty is when women and girls do not have access to safe and clean period products and/or do not have the tools to manage their periods confidently. One of the many countries that face this issue is Scotland. Victoria Heaney created the Free Period Scotland movement to address period poverty in Scotland.

What Started Free Period Scotland?

The Free Period Scotland movement was created with the purpose to make period poverty a regularly discussed topic by Scotland’s government and continue menstruation conversations across the nation. In addition to placing pressure on Scotland’s officials, the research allowed women to admit the harsh reality of period poverty openly. The survey played a role in Scotland becoming a leader worldwide for period poverty protection. Scotland now provides free period products to all women.

Heaney’s interest came from the fact that this form of research is not common in Scotland. At the beginning of the study, she discussed on the podcast “The Snash with Jenny Cook” that she heard stories where women were using old socks as pads due to not being able to afford period products. When Heaney began researching the issue, no research was available on period poverty in Scotland.

Discovering a lack of research on period poverty was surprising because half of the world’s population menstruates. Heaney’s passion for this project led her to teach herself how to do a survey. Her survey focused on the quantity and quality of the experiences.

The Outcome

The Women for Independence committee conducted the research, which was led by Heaney. More than 1,000 women participated in the research survey. The quantitative findings revealed that nearly one in five participants claimed to go without period products because they could not afford them. The research also showed that one in 10 women had to choose between food and period products. In addition, 22% of participants said they were not able to change their period products regularly.

Not only did the survey produce shocking statistics, but it also offered a clearer picture of period poverty in Scotland. Heaney wished to use the research to better examine the stigma that surrounds menstruation for women of all ages. The study revealed that women over the age of 55 reported experiences that were alarmingly similar to teenagers. Free Period Scotland plays a significant role in the Scottish government’s legislative efforts and its bill granting free period products.

Looking Ahead

One of the many ways to help reduce period poverty is raising awareness of the issue, whether through research or social media campaigns. The more discussion about the negative stigmas surrounding menstruation, the more support will be gained in fighting against this global injustice. Victoria Heaney and the Free Period Scotland Movement have made tremendous leaps for women facing period poverty in Scotland. With support from advocacy groups, NGOs and the government, Scotland is taking one step closer to ending period poverty.

– Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr