Period poverty is an issue and our mission at WUKA is to break down barriers and taboos that stops people talking about their periods. This is our aim.
What is Period Poverty?
What is being done to tackle period poverty?
The UK government has launched the Period Product Scheme, aimed to provide all state maintained schools and 16 to 19 education organisations with free period products for girls and women who need them. This scheme is available until July 2024 and schools are required to order the products they need.
While this is a wonderful step in the right direction, it really is only scratching the surface of the changes that still need to take place. And let’s not forget the fact that VAT still hasn’t been abolished on reusable period pants, which would directly contribute towards alleviating the stress and frequent purchase of disposable period products for individuals.
Reusable period pants reduce the amount of plastic filling our landfill each year- and this is especially important to note when considering that 36% of schools are ordering tampons and all schools have requested pads. These plastic-riddled disposables contribute towards the massive 200,000 tonnes of plastic that gets dumped into landfill each year in the UK. Just one pair of WUKA period pants would save 200 single-use items from polluting our land and oceans!
And with reusable and sustainable period pants, the simple act of washing and reusing will not only encourage a sustainable period, but will last 2+ years, ensuring that pupils will always have a product to use when on their period.
What causes period poverty?
Despite the government’s intentions to end period poverty with free products available in schools, there is still a lot more that needs to be done- for those without access to period products at home, those who are afraid to ask, and those who experience stigma because of their period.
Still today, what may seem like a simple act of declining an invitation to a party could actually be a person afraid to attend in case they leak onto their clothes, or because they can’t face sitting on public transport without the anxiety-riddling fear of bleeding onto the seats.
A 2021 study into gendered poverty looked at the effects of period poverty in the UK, and reported that the coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact. A survey carried out by Plan International UK found that 30% couldn’t afford period products and 54% had resorted to using toilet paper as a result. And Stoke-on-Trent’s charity Period Power reported an increase in demand for their help, with their annual expenditure on period products rising from £509 in 2019 to a massive £3,683 in 2020.
The study also talks of Plan International’s 2018 report, Break the Barriers, which highlights the shame felt around period poverty. It concluded that period poverty causes ‘unhappiness and anxiety’ and places constraints on social interactions and relationships too.
The 2021 research concluded that lack of money to buy menstrual products results in anxiety- women and girls not only fear asking for period products, they fear leaking onto clothing and being ‘outed’ as being on their period by others. As a result, more woman and girls choose to stay at home, thus perpetuating feelings of embarrassment and shame.
So what causes period poverty? Lack of money to buy period products. Homelessness. Lack of supply (as seen during the covid lockdowns, where products were being stockpiled and shelves left empty), neglect and abuse, benefit cuts. All of these are issues that need to be tackled if period poverty is to end.
How does period poverty hold girls back?
Having no or limited access to period products hold girls back in so many ways.
- Health: women and girls can be put at risk if they're unable to access a sufficient amount of period products. Around the world, those who suffer from period poverty are forced to use dirty rags which can cause infection. And there are many who still use folded-up toilet roll as a substitute for a pad- the Breaking Barriers report found that more than one in 10 girls had to improvise with toilet paper during their period due to lack of supplies.
- Education: research carried out by PHS found that in 2021, 35% of teen girls had taken time off school because of their period, compared to 27% in 2019. 28% had done this more than once, and one in four said that they weren’t able to complete school work because of their period. 26% felt they had to stay home because of their period, and its predicted that 40% will be likely to miss school or college over the next year due to their period. The impact of this? Lost opportunities: a greater risk of dropping out of eduction completely, and fewer job opportunities overall.
- Period shame: being unable to afford to buy period products and having to ask for them is still a source of embarrassment for girls and women. Having easily accessible products for everyone would remove this stigma.
How can we end period shame?
Why are we still so ashamed about something as natural as bleeding? Periods are normal. They’re a part of life.
Those of us who bleed quite literally hold the power of reproduction. Our bodies bleed because we’re simply releasing eggs. Our ovaries release oestrogen and progesterone and our uterus lining builds up in preparation for a fertilised egg. When there is no fertilised egg, the lining breaks down and bleeds. That is a period.
There is nothing shameful, in fact it’s quite the opposite. The female reproductive system is amazing!
How can we end period poverty?
We won’t end period poverty if we stay quiet about it. This is a global issue that millions of girls and women face around the world, and we need to make changes. We need better education, and we need the support of governments and health organisations too.
Better education on the menstrual cycle will help to break down taboos- and this is essential for both boys and girls. We need better facilities for girls and women, including better access to safe and hygienic period products. We need to support the charities that support those who cannot afford period products, and we need to work together to make it known: periods are not a luxury. Menstrual care is a basic human right.
Choose period products from brands who support ending period poverty. If you can, donate to local and global charities that work to give access to period products. Stand up for women's rights by attending events and marches. Sign petitions, donate products, educate yourself and others.
We can end period poverty, and we must.
What is causing period poverty?
The main causes of period poverty are:
- lack of access to period products
- Lack of funds to buy period products
- Benefit cuts
- Lack of supply
- Abuse and neglect
Who is most affected by period poverty?
Period poverty can affect any girl or woman who doesn’t have access to safe and hygienic period products. Its a global issues, yet here in the UK 30% of girls and women say they cannot afford period products, and 54% admit to using toilet paper instead.
- Educating ourselves and others
- Supporting period poverty charities and brands who support the charities
- Attending marches and events that raise awareness and money for ending period poverty
How does period poverty affect girls?
Lots of girls and women have missed sport, work, school and other events due to their period, and its predicted that 40% will miss out on education this year due to their period.
This leads to lack of education and less job opportunities in later life. Period poverty also leads to fear and anxiety and this can lead to mental health issues.