The UK government will provide free sanitary products in English secondary schools and colleges.
The English government has promised tangible action on Period Poverty by this September, after fantastic campaigning by schoolgirls, activists and MPs, supported by research and reports from school heads that they are seeing girls miss school days because they are unable to access adequate period care.
A 2017 survey of 1,000 English girls and women aged 14 to 21 by charity Plan International revealed that:
- one in 10 had been unable to afford sanitary products
- 12% had improvised protection because of the prohibitive cost of period products
- 49% had missed school due to their period. Another survey found 51 per cent of respondents had suffered from the problem, or knew someone who had. More than two-thirds had been forced to use makeshift menstrual protection at some point.
The scheme to make free sanitary products available in secondary schools and Universities follows a pledge by the NHS to make tampons and sanitary pads available to patients after pressure from Doctors.
“This is a victory for all those who have campaigned for an end to period poverty. It’s a disgrace that period poverty exists in the sixth richest country in the world.”
- Dawn Butler, shadow minister for women and equalities
“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.”
- Penny Mordaunt, UK Minister for Women and Equalities
Wales to provide free sanitary products in schools to fight period poverty
In Wales, up to 141,000 girls attending both primary and secondary schools will be able to access free menstrual products as part of a new £2.3m government scheme designed to combat period poverty.
As in New Zealand, schoolgirls are forced to miss school days because they cannot afford period products. In a Welsh survey last year, two in five girls reported that they had to use toilet paper to manage their period, with some using socks or newspaper to cope with their periods.
So much of this is due to campaigning by schoolgirls themselves!
Scotland the Brave - First to provide free period products in schools
In 2017, 1 in 4 (26%) survey respondents at school, college or university in Scotland had struggled to access sanitary products.
One respondent summed up the issue of period poverty eloquently:
“It’s great to be a girl. But sometimes things that come with being a girl can make life difficult. It’s no secret that many people in Scotland find it difficult to afford or access sanitary products.
This can lead to girls missing school and so losing out on vital education. This effects a girl’s learning and therefore how well she does in school.
It can lead to major issues in adulthood such as unemployment and health issues.
More awareness needs to be spread around this issue as it is extremely important and has a huge impact on our society and our country.”
Scotland provides free period care in schools to fight period poverty
In August 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities, with a revolutionary £5.2M programme.
The government also launched a £500,000 scheme to help women from low income households to access free sanitary products in their communities.
“It is unacceptable that anyone in Scotland should be unable to access sanitary products and we know that young people in particular can face barriers when it comes to asking for help."
- Scotland's Equalities Secretary Angela Constance
"In a society as rich as Scotland, no one should have to suffer the indignity of not having the means to meet their basic needs.
"We also want to continue to reduce the stigma and address the overarching gender equality and dignity issues that affect everyone who menstruates, regardless of their income.
"This is about breaking down barriers and enabling women to access sanitary products which are not a luxury product, they are a necessity for a very large part of a woman's life, and so to enable them to access that freely because of their own financial challenges is something that I think is important and is supporting women."
- Aileen Campbell, Scottish Communities Secretary.
“We know the average cost of a period in the UK over a year is £500. Many women can’t afford this. What is the minister doing to address period poverty?”
- Danielle Rowley, Representative for Midlothian.
Better late than never for period poverty
It is incredible that it has taken until 2018 for legislation that directly addresses period poverty - especially when you consider that this only helps the most vulnerable group of women experiencing the strain and shame and economic impact of being unable to manage their period...
But baby steps are better than no progress on period poverty, and we are totally delighted that the hard work of MPs in Scotland - like Danielle Rowley (who made history by announcing she was on her period in parliament, and that it had cost her £25 already that week), Carolyn Harris, Aileen Campbell and Angela Constance has made life easier and more empowered for thousands of girls!
British Columbia axed 'tampon tax' - now provides free sanitary care for school children
“In Canada, one in seven students has missed school due to their periods because they can’t afford or don’t have easy access to menstrual products.”
- Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean, BC parliamentary secretary for gender equity.
The BC government ditched taxes on tampons and other sanitary products in 2015, and on 5 April ordered public schools across British Columbia to provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms by the end of this year.
What's the real 'cost-benefit' equation of axing tampon taxes?
Removing the 'tampon tax' cost the government an estimated $36 million in lost revenue, but there will be inter-generational social and economic profits resulting from making it more affordable and realistic for lower income women to be in work, and girls to get a higher education that will lift them, and their future families out of poverty long term.
Free menstrual products in BC Schools is an educational game-changer!
The government will provide $300,000 in start-up money so that districts can immediately provide the products in school washrooms.
Mitzi Dean said “Having your period is a part of life, and easy and affordable access to menstrual products should be simple. This sets B.C. as a leader in fighting period poverty.”
“Students should never have to miss school, extracurricular, sports or social activities because they cant afford or don't have access to menstrual products. This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue. We look forward to working with school districts and communities to make sure students get the access they need - with no stigma, and no barriers.”
- Rob Fleming, Education Minister.
Tautoko Rob; we couldn't agree more.
Schools are supportive too, with Jordan Watters, chair of the the Greater Victoria school board, saying that although the district already provided free menstrual products through school offices, the board were looking at how to improve access, and are "really excited to see the government stepping up".
Grassroots funding & research into menstrual products
Applause also for the government allocating funding (CAD$95,000) to support the United Way Period Promise Research Project, to fund menstrual products for up to 10 non-profit agencies, and fund research into how best to provide menstrual services and products.
Supporting grass-roots charities and collating research helps build a sustainable, informed way forward, out of period poverty.
Period Poverty is all part of a bigger social and equality issue
The British Columbia government is also working big picture with TogetherBC, their first Poverty Reduction Strategy released in March, which has admirably ambitious goals for the next 5 years - to help reduce overall poverty in the province by 25%, and reduce child poverty to half.
Alright New Zealand; let's see what we can do!