Bleeding Need for Action | Spotlight on: Period Poverty

WCWD’s Spotlight series shines a light on the issues the UK is facing. Presenting the facts and things you can do to help in bitesize, easily digestible ways to help you feel more informed and empowered to make change.

This week we're taking a look at period poverty.

WCWD description of period poverty
‘This is an injustice that doesn’t stop in a pandemic. This is an injustice which the government doesn’t meet with such urgency, but this is an injustice that needs our attention’

Bloody Good Period

No one should be held back by their period

“The more awareness we can raise about this issue, the more we can help to remove the shame girls feel in talking about it,”

Always Ambassador, Alesha Dixon

All around the world there is shame and stigma surrounding menstruation and periods.

Even in the UK, where nearly half of the people getting their period for the first time don’t know what’s happening to them.

Getting informed, sharing information, being aware of the right terminology to use and taking action will help us become more comfortable discussing periods, and tackling the stigma.

WCWD spotlight on period poverty facts worldwide

Why is tackling the stigma so important?

When we don’t fully understand what’s going on, it can have real life consequences.

Because of the taboos surrounding menstruation in many parts of the world, there is a significant lack of health education resources available.

In Afghanistan, women avoid washing their vulvas, having been taught that it will cause infertility. The cost of period products is inflated too with one pad costing about £3.

We might think we’re more advanced in the West, but period poverty is also an issue in the UK and has risen sharply since the coronavirus lockdown.

WCWD spotlight on period poverty in the uk

49% of girls have missed a full day of school because of their period according to Plan International UK, half are too embarrassed to ask for help or support, and 68% said they felt less able to concentrate at school or college during their period.

Whilst this is a physical issue, not being able to manage your period can cause emotional and mental health problems too. Discomfort, shame, worry and feeling dirty can be common if people are not able to manage their periods properly.

What Can We Do?

Get informed and spread the word

The key to helping is being informed. Become aware of the situation and learn the facts from reliable resources. Share our Spotlight social post to help break the taboo and raise awareness.

Photo from The Independent: Period poverty is a widespread issue in the UK – with 49 per cent of girls having missed a day of school due to periods and one in ten women aged 14 to 21 not able to afford period products(Mollie Rose)
Photo from The Independent: Period poverty is a widespread issue in the UK – with 49 per cent of girls having missed a day of school due to periods and one in ten women aged 14 to 21 not able to afford period products(Mollie Rose)

Hey boys - listen up! This means you, too!

Menstruation is a global experience, so period poverty is a matter of global urgency.

Learn about the “tampon tax”, which was only abolished by the UK government earlier this year, after a three year campaign by 20 year old Amika George. She was upset by stories of girls missing school and using improvised period products, including rags, old t-shirts, socks, tissues or even newspapers to prevent leakage through their uniforms.

Read the Loom International article called No Shame, Period. Around the world, the lives of people who menstruate are in jeopardy every month because of shame, and shame is destructive. Watch these excellent TED Talks from Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability to understand more.

WCWD spotlight facts about period poverty and covid 19

Use the right words

The language we use matters, and it is essential for inclusivity. It is vital to include everyone when talking periods.

Check out the 'mind your bloody language' campaign by Bloody Good Period, which has some great tips on simple language swaps to make sure we are being inclusive and helping to fight the stigma.

Read Bloody Good Period’s blog, ‘Change the language, change the story - the significance of period talk’ by trans man Kenny Ethan Jones,

Bloody Good period's table of language to use when discussing periods
From Bloody Good Period

Some people who have periods don’t identify as women and are excluded from the conversation. Everyone deserves to be and should be included.

“When we solely use she to describe people that experience periods we by default exclude everyone who doesn’t identify as a woman from the conversation, and if we aren’t a part of the conversation we're not thought of. Corporations don’t think of us, governmnt bodies don’t think of us.”

Kenny Ethan Jones

Refugees and periods

‘The stress of being a refugee has led to me having heavy and irregular periods: I don’t know anymore when I am going to bleed.’ — Female Refugee, 2017, from “Meeting Point”, Leeds

WCWD Spotlight facts about period poverty and asylum seeking women

Refugees and asylum-seeking women also suffer from period poverty, living on only £37.75 per week. This doesn’t allow the purchase of adequate period products each month.

According to the British Red Cross, there are thousands of destitute refugees and people seeking asylum living in Britain today, struggling to even feed themselves.

We are not all equal in the face of our periods.

Every woman and menstruating person has different flows. A heavy and/or irregular period can cost around £20 per month, meaning that a natural bodily function can cost almost a quarter of an asylum seeker’s already stretched income.

Many people also get their periods at a young age and have this added financial pressure at an early stage of their lives.

Some women and people who menstruate have to take painkillers or expensive medication for period pains. Some also have to start hormonal contraception to regulate periods, reduce menstrual cramps and make periods lighter.

the first period positive pledge

Use your signature and your socials to make change

Sign the petition to ‘Expand the Free Menstrual Products Scheme to Universities’. Free access to period products is currently only available in English state schools and colleges.

You can also sign this petition to ‘Urge The Australian Government to Show Leadership on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

Write to your MP using this template from the Every Month campaign to ask that they support free menstrual products for people living in poverty in the UK.

Get social and share these images on your news feeds and commit to the Period Positive Pledges!

Celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day every year on the 28th May to break taboos surrounding menstruation and raise awareness of the importance of good menstrual hygiene management worldwide.

Become an ActionAid Community Campaigner, joining a network of feminist campaigners on their commitment towards gender equality across the UK.

An image of a period pad with the words menstruation isn't dirty on it

Support whilst you shop

Buy a menstrual cup from The Cup Effect. For each one sold, two cups are donated to people who can’t afford period products.

Shop with Hey Girls UK: Buy One Give One menstrual products. With every menstrual product bought, one is given away.

Raise donations with Every Month whenever you shop online and turn your everyday online shopping into FREE donations!

The Free Period Facebook logo
Free Periods campaign

Support with a donation

£3/month to ActionAid helps provide hygiene kits containing period towels for girls who can’t afford them. £7/month helps fund workshops to teach women and girls how to make their own reusable period pads.

Raise pounds for pads with Bloody Good Period, because periods don’t stop in a pandemic. Do a sponsored walk of NO Shame to change the conversation around periods and raise awareness of period poverty.

Donate unopened packets of pads to: Bloody Good Period, SafeStore, Alexandra Palace Way, London N8 7HP. Please note they do not need tampons, as pads are far more popular with the people they work with.

Or join in Bloody Good Period’s Bloody Funny: A Bleed-in Night of Comedy on 24th September with comedians to raise funds for their vital work.

Donate to Plan International UK to support girls around the world.

Support the Free Periods Campaign by sharing on social media, donating and getting in touch with your local school to ensure that all state schools and colleges in England are signed up to give out free essential period supplies to students.

Help Freedom4girls with a £7 donation to create a reusable period pack that will last up to 3 years. Alternatively you can volunteer, donate period products or set up a donation station for other people to drop off products.

Donate to the Gift Wellness Foundation and help them eradicate period poverty in Britain’s most deprived communities by 2025.

Article and research by Jennifer Pinto. Edited by Emily Hodson.

The What Can We Do logo, with a jumping orange figure

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Each week we publish more ideas on how you can get involved. If you know of any initiatives in your community that you think we should promote get in touch.

Do you want to write a Spotlight blog or be our next guest blogger for our Voices of Change blog series? Then please get in touch.

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