Many people who have periods can’t afford sanitary towels — let’s talk period poverty
What’s Period Poverty?
Lots of people who have periods can’t afford sanitary towels or tampons. Instead, they survive using socks, tissues, or whatever they can get their hands on when they’re menstruating. For many of us, sanitary towels, moon cups or other menstrual products are something we don’t think twice about buying. After all, they’re a basic necessity.
Yet in the UK, 10% of people with a vagina ages 14-21 live in period poverty and cannot afford these essential products. Sanitary products are not a luxurious product, they are a basic necessity – but they come with a high price tag. They tend to average around £2 a packet (although the very basic products can be found at around 80p in some retailers). So if you need a couple of packets every month, that’s around £4 per month. If you add things like pain relief pills to the mix, or back-up products in case you bleed through, the cost keeps rising. If you or your family is struggling to afford rent, food, or clothes, you may not prioritise buying sanitary towels – which is completely understandable.
What’s The Impact of Period Poverty
But this is a big problem. It’s estimated that 137,700 girls missed school last year because they couldn’t afford sanitary products. People might miss school because of the stigma associated with using socks or tissues – although other students are unlikely to know they are using a sock as a pad, they may be scared the sock won’t work and they could leak blood everywhere. It’s also uncomfortable, so being at home may seem like a better option.
But even more worryingly, 11 per cent of girls used tampons for longer than recommended because they didn’t have a replacement, which is a health risk. Period poverty is wrong. We all deserve access to this basic need. Thankfully, Scotland is offering free sanitary products to people who need them; you can get them from your school, university, or even the Glasgow airport loos. But England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are lagging behind, which means we need your help to fight period poverty. Here are some of the things you can do.
Food banks accept more than just food; they’re in constant need of menstrual products, including sanitary pads and tampons. Find your local food bank and donate as much as you can. You can also donate money or pads to Bloody Good Period. They provide menstrual supplies for people who can’t afford them, including asylum seekers and refugees. Get involved and donate menstrual products, or even fundraise for them.
Buy one, give one
There are some amazing organisations that donate sanitary products to someone in need for every box you buy. Check out Hey Girls, who are committed to ensuring every person with a vagina can access sanitary towels and live period poverty free.
Write to your local MP
Speak up! First, find your local MP here and then write a letter, call, email, or even tweet them and demand that they end period poverty. You don’t have to write or say much, just let them know why you care and that you want them to do something. If you need a hand, you can use this Free Periods template to send to your local MP.
End the stigma
Even though lots of people with vaginas have periods, we are often embarrassed to talk about it. We whisper “period” as if it’s a dirty word, and hide our menstrual products so people can’t see if we’re on our period. Not only is this completely ridiculous, it prevents people from speaking up if they need help in accessing tampons or pads. We need to normalise the topic of menstruation. I challenge you to talk openly and honestly to your friends and family about period poverty and stigma. And yes, that includes talking to boys, men, and people with other genders too!
Create a donation box at your school
If you’re feeling adventurous and passionate you can even create a donation scheme in your local area or school. This sounds overwhelming, right? Well, you can get in touch with Red Box and they will work with you to create a project and enable people in your local area to access tampons and pads.
Period poverty is a huge issue that we need to challenge. Thankfully there are lots of ways you can get involved to help end period poverty. For even more amazing ideas on how to get involved in ending period poverty, be sure to explore Free Period, an organisation started by teen activist, Amika George.
Page last reviewed: 13 May 2020