Period Poverty: The Hidden Side Of British Inequality

Period poverty exists yet we aren't talking about it because periods are still such a taboo topic. They're viewed as disgusting and conversations surrounding them make people feel uncomfortable, but, the truth is, we have to push past that discomfort and realise that no topic is "too disgusting" when it's having a detrimental impact on people's lives.
According to new research from global girls rights charity Plan International UK, one in ten girls has been unable to afford sanitary wear. If a statistic as alarming as this can come from somewhere as developed as the UK, it doesn't bare thinking about how worse off women in other countries are.

This research also found that one in five girls have changed to a less suitable sanitary product and one in seven have had to borrow products from a friend due to cost issues
For some, buying sanitary products isn't an issue. They can choose which brands they want to use, what type of products they prefer, they can test different ones until they find a favourite and they can buy as many as they want without having to look at their bank balance, but this isn't the case for the entire country.
Some women and girls don't have the luxury of being able to buy the best quality sanitary towels and tampons and just have to settle for what they can afford whilst others many even have to use alternatives to sanitary products. For some women, it can even mean choosing between eating a meal that day and remaining hygienic whilst on their period.

Girls shouldn't be forced to choose between the shoddy, cheap sanitary products and the more expensive ones which do a much better job. Naturally, they're going to opt for the most expensive ones which provide the most comfort and don't instill the fear of God in girls that they're going to be leaking blood all over the place. All girls should be given a fair chance at having a comfortable, stress-free period and sanitary products of a decent standard should be available to all who require them.

For women with families to feed and homes to run, "that time of the month" can simply add more worry to their existing mountain of anxieties. Forking out for sanitary products can put a real financial strain on their households, meaning choosing between feeding the children and paying the bills or having a packet of sanitary towels in the house. We all know which they're going to choose, resulting in women suffering and, more often than you may think, going without sanitary products. Women go to extreme lengths, such as substituting sanitary products for toilet roll and not leaving the house so they can be near a toilet, so long as it means they can feed and clothe their children. This is no life for women to be living.

But it isn't just mothers who have to choose between food and their period. For many young girls in education, each month they face the choice of buying lunch and wearing a towel or a tampon. Some girls can afford sanitary products because they are already on free school meals due to a low household income but, if they didn't have that support from their school, who knows what their periods would be like. Being on free school meals doesn't always mean girls have enough money for tampons, though. They're on free school meals for a reason and, despite getting a free lunch every day, this doesn't necessarily mean they have the cash left over to fund their period. And what about the girls who aren't eligible for free school meals but are still struggling financially? How are they supposed to afford sanitary products?

Children in the UK are missing school because they are unable to afford sanitary products, with some being absent for a week every month, This will have an enormous impact on their education and future job prospects.Some teachers are even taking the matter into their own hands and paying for sanitary products for students out of their own pockets, which shouldn't be the case.

You may think "Oh, it's only £1" but that isn't the case. First of all, £1 may only buy you the worst quality sanitary products. Secondly, it may only buy you one packet and most women need more. And thirdly, £1 isn't "just £1" to everyone. Some people genuinely do not have a spare pound to invest in sanitary products. £1 may be loose change to you, but that's a meal to others.

Women and girls who are victims of period poverty are suffering in silence, due to the shame surrounding both periods and being poor. How does one even verbalise "I don't have £2 to buy tampons?" Women are embarrassed to admit they can't afford sanitary products so would rather struggle for a week twelve times a year. Something needs to change here.

So, what can we do? Well, the government can get more involved. In an ideal world, all sanitary products would be free. Well, actually, in an ideal world, periods just wouldn't exist...period. But, whilst they do, those in power should be doing all they can to make them as easy to manage as possible. Lower the price of sanitary products. Remove the tampon tax, (Tesco recently offered to pay this small amount so customers don't have to). Offer free sanitary products to all girls at school. End the period stigma because periods don't have to be this "huge secret."
Sanitary products are not a "luxury," they're a necessity. Why should men's shaving products be viewed as necessary when women's sanitary products are not? This type of sexism is something we must combat. Just as toilet paper is provided in schools for free, so should sanitary items. This is something that has already been recognised in New York, where free tampons are available in schools, so what is the UK waiting for?

Some women who use food banks are able to get their sanitary products from there and don't know how they would cope if that wasn't an option. Not all food banks have sanitary products to provide, though, because they aren't something the public think to donate. During your period, sanitary products can be just as important as a meal and definitely more important than that extra chocolate bar, so we need to educate people on what food banks really need.

Period poverty is the hidden side of British inequality. It's the bit we don't see. Women and girls in one of the richest societies in history are stuffing socks inside their underwear and remaining trapped inside their homes each month yet, because they're ashamed to admit it, no one knows it's going on. We need to annihilate period shame and the stigma surrounding periods - they're natural after all! Women and girls need to know it's okay to talk about their periods and there is nothing wrong with asking for help.

Research shows that pads and tampons cost women around £13 every month. Add another £8 for new underwear and perhaps a few more pounds for pain relief. This could result in women needing to find more than £300 each year just for periods. Not only is this the equivalent of two weeks rent, but it's a hefty price for women to be paying for something they have zero control over.

Women don't ask for periods but they need to deal with them so why should they suffer so much? Period poverty is so ingrained into our society that the government and anyone with a brain doesn't view it as an issue. It is an issue, though. A big one. We need to do something so women and girls, regardless of their financial situation, are able to get through their periods safely. People should not be held back by their periods. Equality means a period-friendly world.

It's time to end period poverty. Period.

Love, Emily

1 comment:

  1. This is terrible.
    At my school, expensive brands would come and talk to young girls about periods and then they would give us a free sample (I remember getting like... 4 pads and 3 tampon?) but we hadn't free sanitary products available. They should be part of every school/high school/college first-aid kit, and of course, more affordable to buy. Here in Spain we have to pay 10% tax for sanitary period products (In the Canary Islands they are going to eliminate the tax next year, hopefully it will extend to every region...)

    Great post!!