Enactus 2021 Summer Blog

Check out our summer blog!
Free for all - why we still need to do more to tackle period poverty in the UK.
This blog post is brought to you by our FreeFlow team. If you would like to see more of the stuff they do, please check out their products here and their blogs here. Believe it or not, some good has come out of 2020. On the 24th of November Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all. After a four-year campaign, there is now a legal duty on local authorities to ensure that free items such as tampons and sanitary pads are available to "anyone who needs them". [1] This is no doubt a momentous bill to be passed in combatting period poverty. Currently about 10% of girls in the UK have been unable to afford period products; 15% have struggled to afford them; and 19% have changed to a less suitable product due to cost. [2] This bill also aims to understand how periods and the stigma surrounding them impact upon girl’s education - with researchers finding almost half of girls surveyed have missed school because of their period. [3] However, the fact the Scotland is the only country in the world to provide the free provision of free products in 2020 is troubling in itself. This issue should have been acted upon years before now and governments and institutions across the world must not become complacent about this issue. For instance, although in January this year the British government allocated £6.8 million funding for free period products in schools, the scheme was not mandatory. [4] Schools had to sign up to get this funding. With this funding arguably being kept on the downlow, over 60% of schools are set to miss out on this they don’t sign up for the end of the month. [5] Gemma Abbott, director of the Free Periods campaign wants the Children and Families minister Michelle Donelan to make good on their promise that the government would take action to make the products mandatory in all schools if take-up wasn’t ‘sufficiently high’. [6] Scotland, in making history, should set the bar for the rest of the UK in allocating funding for this ever growing issue. And this issue is certainly ever growing. Period poverty has increased sharply in the UK since the coronavirus crisis began, with 3 in 10 girls having struggled to afford or access period products. [7] Bloody Good Period has supplied almost six times as many menstrual products compared with before the pandemic started, including 700 packs to NHS workers in March and April because they were working such long hours that they could not get to shops to buy period products. [8] When they did have time to go to a shop, many had no success as people had stockpiled pads and tampons. [9] Availability of products is not the only problem wrapped up in period politics in the UK. Paradoxically, in the same week that Scotland’s ground-breaking law was passed, the vice-principal at an Oxford school sent an email to all of Year 12 students stating that “any female student asking to be sent home as ‘ill’ or phoning in ‘ill’ who has a period will not find this is a suitable excuse. Learning to deal with monthly inconvenience is all part of being a woman, I’m afraid.” Not only does this statement completely ignore the uncontrollable side effects which many girls and women suffer from each month, like endometriosis for example, it also blatantly disregards the issue of period poverty. This monthly ‘inconvenience’ which is ‘part of being a woman’ is hardly an easy thing to deal with every month if you can’t afford to buy period products and there is no provision for free products in your school. Let’s not even mention stigmatising tone of the letter. On a more positive note, some schools are taking action themselves to tackle period poverty. Belfast Royal Academy's Pink Paper Bag Project aims to make sanitary products accessible to students who need them. [10] The products are donated by pupils, staff and teachers. As positive as this scheme is, these donations by generous individuals shouldn’t be necessary in 2020. The UK government needs to follow in Scotland’s footsteps and make period products free for all in England, Wales and Northern Ireland too. Scotland has made history yes, but history needs to continue to be made across the rest of the UK, and eventually across the world, so that period poverty can become a thing of the past. Please tell anyone who works in education to get their school to register to the free period products scheme I have mentioned! Or you can write to your local school and tell them about the importance of this issue and why they should sign up! [1] C. Diamond, ‘Period poverty: Scotland first in world to make period products free’, BBC News, 24 November 2020 [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] M. Oppenheim, ‘Schools may lose out on £6.8m free period products funding as teachers warn girls could go without items over Christmas’ The Independent, 2 December 2020 [5] Ibid. [6] Ibid. [7] Ibid. [8] D.Taylor, 'Period poverty has surged in UK during Covid pandemic', The Guardian, 16 November 2020 [9] Ibid. [10] BBC News, Period poverty: The Belfast school breaking the taboo, 28 November 2020
Kate McGreary
July 26th • 4 min read

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Kate McGreary
July 26th • 4 min read
Free for all - why we still need to do more to tackle period poverty in the UK.
This blog post is brought to you by our FreeFlow team. If you would like to see more of the stuff they do, please check out their products here and their blogs here. Believe it or not, some good has come out of 2020. On the 24th of November Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all. After a four-year campaign, there is now a legal duty on local authorities to ensure that free items such as tampons and sanitary pads are available to "anyone who needs them". [1] This is no doubt a momentous bill to be passed in combatting period poverty. Currently about 10% of girls in the UK have been unable to afford period products; 15% have struggled to afford them; and 19% have changed to a less suitable product due to cost. [2] This bill also aims to understand how periods and the stigma surrounding them impact upon girl’s education - with researchers finding almost half of girls surveyed have missed school because of their period. [3] However, the fact the Scotland is the only country in the world to provide the free provision of free products in 2020 is troubling in itself. This issue should have been acted upon years before now and governments and institutions across the world must not become complacent about this issue. For instance, although in January this year the British government allocated £6.8 million funding for free period products in schools, the scheme was not mandatory. [4] Schools had to sign up to get this funding. With this funding arguably being kept on the downlow, over 60% of schools are set to miss out on this they don’t sign up for the end of the month. [5] Gemma Abbott, director of the Free Periods campaign wants the Children and Families minister Michelle Donelan to make good on their promise that the government would take action to make the products mandatory in all schools if take-up wasn’t ‘sufficiently high’. [6] Scotland, in making history, should set the bar for the rest of the UK in allocating funding for this ever growing issue. And this issue is certainly ever growing. Period poverty has increased sharply in the UK since the coronavirus crisis began, with 3 in 10 girls having struggled to afford or access period products. [7] Bloody Good Period has supplied almost six times as many menstrual products compared with before the pandemic started, including 700 packs to NHS workers in March and April because they were working such long hours that they could not get to shops to buy period products. [8] When they did have time to go to a shop, many had no success as people had stockpiled pads and tampons. [9] Availability of products is not the only problem wrapped up in period politics in the UK. Paradoxically, in the same week that Scotland’s ground-breaking law was passed, the vice-principal at an Oxford school sent an email to all of Year 12 students stating that “any female student asking to be sent home as ‘ill’ or phoning in ‘ill’ who has a period will not find this is a suitable excuse. Learning to deal with monthly inconvenience is all part of being a woman, I’m afraid.” Not only does this statement completely ignore the uncontrollable side effects which many girls and women suffer from each month, like endometriosis for example, it also blatantly disregards the issue of period poverty. This monthly ‘inconvenience’ which is ‘part of being a woman’ is hardly an easy thing to deal with every month if you can’t afford to buy period products and there is no provision for free products in your school. Let’s not even mention stigmatising tone of the letter. On a more positive note, some schools are taking action themselves to tackle period poverty. Belfast Royal Academy's Pink Paper Bag Project aims to make sanitary products accessible to students who need them. [10] The products are donated by pupils, staff and teachers. As positive as this scheme is, these donations by generous individuals shouldn’t be necessary in 2020. The UK government needs to follow in Scotland’s footsteps and make period products free for all in England, Wales and Northern Ireland too. Scotland has made history yes, but history needs to continue to be made across the rest of the UK, and eventually across the world, so that period poverty can become a thing of the past. Please tell anyone who works in education to get their school to register to the free period products scheme I have mentioned! Or you can write to your local school and tell them about the importance of this issue and why they should sign up! [1] C. Diamond, ‘Period poverty: Scotland first in world to make period products free’, BBC News, 24 November 2020 [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] M. Oppenheim, ‘Schools may lose out on £6.8m free period products funding as teachers warn girls could go without items over Christmas’ The Independent, 2 December 2020 [5] Ibid. [6] Ibid. [7] Ibid. [8] D.Taylor, 'Period poverty has surged in UK during Covid pandemic', The Guardian, 16 November 2020 [9] Ibid. [10] BBC News, Period poverty: The Belfast school breaking the taboo, 28 November 2020
Check out our summer blog

Enactus 2021 Summer Blog