For many of us, being able to afford sanitary products is a privilege that we sometimes take for granted. There are many young women out there, however, who aren’t so lucky. Thinking about period poverty is daunting and the topic can feel emotional and challenging. But here at Lil-Lets, we believe that it’s important to understand the lived realities of period poverty and find out all we can do to help.
Period poverty is the inability to afford sanitary products, but it can also relate to having a lack of understanding of menstruation. One way of understanding the hardships of period poverty is by discussing the ‘toxic trio’. The toxic trio refers to:
You’re most likely familiar with the ‘tampon tax’ that the UK government has come under scrutiny about. The tampon tax refers to the profits from the VAT charge of 5% applied to sanitary products — a tax that is seriously disputed as sanitary products are essential products that not everybody can afford.
As well as the financial difficulties that contribute to period poverty, lack of access to education and resources is a massive issue. As a result of these combined factors, people are growing up in a climate where they can’t afford these essential items, they feel ashamed about their bodies, and they remain uneducated about important elements of menstruation.
Even though you may start to get signs of your first period (on average) at around twelve years old, some of us begin to experience periods from as young as eight. Those who are from low-income households may not be fortunate enough to add sanitary products to their parents’ weekly food shop — leaving many unable to access these essential items. Sadly, this is likely to have a massive impact on the formative years of their life, likely impacting upon their education and social development.
It has been found that the average schoolgirl is likely to take three days off each term due to period-related issues, and 1,000 girls said that period poverty affected their academic performance. It is essential that we find solutions to this issue and allow people to reach their true potentials, no matter what their household income is.
The uphill battle against period poverty needs to be fought on many different levels. The reform of public policy and education policy surrounding periods is a major area of focus and, thankfully, we’re already beginning to see some big changes.
In April 2019, the UK Government’s Department for Education announced its commitment to providing free sanitary products across England’s primary schools by early 2020. The then-Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, covered some key concerns raised by period poverty activists and outlined some key steps about how to tackle the issue. In addition, the government has already introduced mandatory school curriculums on relationships, sex, and health, which will include improved period education.
Together, we need to work hard to tackle the stigma around periods, introduce more menstrual education into the classroom and home life, and help financially support those who can’t afford essential sanitary products. Young activists such as Amika George are already leading the way. The inspiring teen activist created the #FreePeriods movement in order to amplify the message that no-one should have to miss out on learning because they can’t afford sanitary products. She teamed up with other campaigns such as the Pink Protest and the Red Box Project to reiterate the importance of achieving period equality for all girls.
Another great way to help out is by donating sanitary products to your local foodbank so that they are always available to those who can’t afford them. Cycle-specific products should be kept in mind while making donations — try to vary the products you donate so that there is something suitable for everyone. For example, one Newcastle West End Foodbank volunteer informed us that sanitary pads are far more commonly donated than tampons but not everyone uses pads.
Together, we can tackle this crisis and help ensure that women and girls everywhere have access to education, sanitary products, and other forms of aid during difficult times in their life. Join the period poverty revolution today and get ready to make a real change!