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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

Period Products Bill in ScotlandOn November 24, 2020, a groundbreaking moment occurred that changed the struggle against period poverty. The Scottish Parliament passed the Period Products Bill in Scotland. This new bill guarantees free access to necessary hygienic period products to all who require them. Member of the Scottish Parliament, Monica Lennon, championed the fight against period poverty in Scotland and played a significant part in passing this revolutionary legislation.

Ending Period Poverty in Scotland

Even with the United Kingdom being one of the world’s wealthiest countries, period poverty remains a recurrent problem. In 2018, more than 20% of those polled in Scotland stated that they either had limited or no access to period products. Another 10% had to sacrifice food and other necessities to afford them. One in 10 experienced bacterial or fungal infections due to a lack of sanitary products. These rates have gone up to nearly one in four during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new Period Products Bill in Scotland practically eliminates these problems. Accessibility to sanitary products must be made by the Scottish Government and organized countrywide. Public restrooms in educational institutions must contain a variety of period products without charge and it also allows oversight over local jurisdictions to ensure enforcement of the law.

Ending Menstruation Taboos

Menstruation has become a stigmatized topic worldwide, despite half the population experiencing it. The dangerous and outdated idea that periods are not appropriate for discussion and seriousness is damaging to those subjected to these taboos.

From South America to Africa, antiquated menstruation views have led to long-lasting negative consequences for those suffering from period poverty. In some cultures, menstruating girls and women must separate themselves from the rest of their community. In Nepal, so-called ‘menstruation huts‘ have dire consequences for women, with local organizations stating that many deaths associated with the practice go unreported.

The importance of ending taboos about menstruation is evident. The Period Products Bill in Scotland is a meaningful step to engage the rest of the world over these unsound presuppositions of menstruation and begin addressing period poverty globally.

Implementing Period Poverty Legislation Worldwide

There has already been worldwide attention brought to the neoteric Period Products Bill in Scotland. Lennon has been fielding communications from leaders and lawmakers around the world, ready to implement similar laws in their own countries. According to Lennon, “Scotland has provided a blueprint and shown how it can be done.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, logistical problems of supplying period products and economic suffering are causing governments to reevaluate the impact of period poverty. Countries with strong infrastructure can utilize Scotland’s approach to combat the worsening situation fast and effectively. The rest of the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia have already taken note of the problem and Scotland’s practical policy.

Ending Global Period Poverty

In underdeveloped countries, Scotland’s lead in the battle against period poverty can pave the way for education and destigmatizing menstruation. Poverty-fighting organizations can create similar international implementation plans in developing nations with little investment. Thanks to Scotland’s leadership, period poverty may soon become as antiquated as the stigmas surrounding it.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr