Period poverty encompasses the shame, guilt and cost barriers which affect people’s access to sanitary products. 1 in 10 young people in the UK are unable to afford menstrual products, resulting in detriment to their self-esteem, education and overall quality of life. We’ve acknowledged the ongoing battle that people in the UK (and worldwide) have with feminine products and are taking a stand against it within our Forrist by offering customers the option of a free reusable menstrual cup with every order.
How does period poverty hold back those who menstruate?
Not having access to a safe and hygienic way to deal with periods can have significant consequences, particularly on young people’s education. It was found that over 137,000 children across the UK miss school days each year as a result of period poverty.
Period poverty is largely rooted in the stigma which surrounds periods. Many people are too embarrassed to even speak about their periods, let alone seek help for them. This is not just a risk to their physical health but also threatens their confidence and self-esteem. This leads to them missing out on opportunities when they are housebound by their inability to manage their period.
This stigma has been shown to directly affect a child’s potential to succeed. One survey found that 68% of children felt they were less able to pay attention in class at school/college while menstruating. I’m sure anyone who menstruates knows the feeling of awful period pains, unable to focus on anything else except your stomach cramps or aching back/legs, but for someone experiencing period poverty, access to menstrual products is already a struggle, let alone affording pain relief, and so it is no surprise that their education is suffering as a result. We believe this should never be the case and no person should have to feel like they have to sacrifice buying period products in order to eat that week, but sadly that is the harsh reality for many people today.
In 2015 the government proposed to banish the tax on feminine care in England, yet 6 years on, in January 2021 the Tampon Tax has only just been removed. We believe more can be done, and with the great achievement of Scotland leading by example and being the first country in the world to offer free menstrual products to everyone who needs them, we hope that others will follow suit. The government in England have stated that no-one should be held back from accessing education due to their period and so as of 2020 all students in school or college who are in need of menstrual products will have free access to them from their institution. These are all great steps in the right direction to help abolish period poverty and with everyone doing what little they can to make an immediate difference, change can happen.
However, many period products are still pricey and even something as sustainable as a menstrual cup can cost between £10 - £35. Even though this could last an individual person up to 10 years with proper care, many people simply cannot pay that upfront cost when they need to. On average, people with cycles spend £120 every year on disposable menstrual products and that is extra outgoings that many cannot afford. As a result of the lockdown in March 2020 many students who were relying on free menstrual products from their schools were not able to get them. Plus,with unemployment at an all-time high, more and more people have been pushed into period poverty. Not to mention, with many people stockpiling products some people were just not able to get hold of any menstrual products, and many key workers who were working longer than usual shifts did not have the time to go to the shops. Some people were forced to use makeshift products, such as toilet roll or socks in replacement of menstrual products.
What can be done to tackle period poverty?
Although progress is being made across the UK, there is still much to be done to ensure everyone who needs menstrual products has access to them. There is plenty you can do to incur more positive change though. Period poverty is a cultural concern as well as an economic one, and much of the practical issues that those with cycles face stem from the stigma which surrounds this natural process. Being period positive, educating others and being open to learn from other’s experiences are important everyday standards to uphold. You never know who might be struggling with feelings of shame, or who needs to re-evaluate their attitudes towards periods. In terms of taking practical action, even a small gesture could have a big impact in your local area. Consider visiting your nearest food bank or homeless shelter and donating period products to some of the people who need it the most.
For long-term systematic change to occur, however, legislative change is necessary, and the government support is needed. The bill for free period products in Scotland was passed unanimously, and gradual but progressive change being made in the rest of the UK show they are headed in the same direction. Petitioning and demonstrating to make your voice heard is important to getting these topics discussed in the places they need to be for legislative action to take place. And let’s not forget, period poverty is not just a British issue, it affects people all over the world. There are many charities which you can find online with a simple google search and donate towards their efforts to help those struggling with period poverty worldwide, such as Freedom4Girls, a non-profit organisation situated in Kenya.
Here at Forrist we strongly believe that access to menstrual products should be free for all those who need them. We aim to start our efforts with giving away free menstrual cups - for life! As we grow, so will our commitment to support those across the UK and globally who suffer from period poverty. Together we can help put an end to the taboo surrounding periods and ensure everyone has access to clean, safe and FREE menstrual products.