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Fighting period povertys toxic trio

Fighting period poverty’s ‘toxic trio’

When we launched our Menstrual Manifesto, we made six calls for change

They’re all based on our research with young people in England and Northern Ireland, which was truly eye opening.

Amongst the findings, we discovered the complexity of period poverty and how it’s underpinned by a ‘toxic trio’ of issues.

What also became clear is that each of these issues must be addressed if girls and other menstruators are to be able to manage their periods safely, healthily and effectively – as they should expect to be able to do in the 21st century.

Period poverty: the ‘toxic trio’

The ‘toxic trio’ of period poverty, revealed by our research, is made up of:

  1. The cost of sanitary products: girls in the UK are struggling to cover the cost of their periods every month – one in ten have found themselves unable to afford sanitary products. And as media stories show, some girls are having to go without products at all, because they simply can’t afford them. 
  2. A lack of education about periods: girls aren’t being taught how their bodies work. As a result, few are aware what a healthy and an unhealthy period are like, and very few of the young people we talked to could name more than the top two (disposable) sanitary product options.
  3. Shame, stigma and taboo: Girls are being told there’s something wrong with their bodies when they have their period. This normal, healthy process is being treated like it's something to be ashamed of. 

What we’ve also heard from young people is that, even when they do ask for help or education, the message they receive back is: ‘don’t talk about it’. 

The result? The problem gets silenced.

Aoife, 19, from London
“I’ve had the words, ‘Dirty! It’s disgusting.’ It’s a horrible way for a girl to feel when she’s on her period." - Aoife, 19, London
Activists, educators and policy makers at the UK’s first Period Poverty Summit in 2017.
Activists, educators and policy makers at the UK’s first Period Poverty Summit.

The project will also include piloting a P-card scheme (based on the existing and successful C-Card scheme that distributes condoms locally) making period products, including sustainable options, available to those in need, and providing menstruation education designed to enable girls and other menstruators to manage their periods confidently and without shame.

It's a truly exciting initiative, and I can’t wait to update you on where the project takes us next.

Follow Lucy Russell on Twitter @totorointhetree 

This article was updated on 22 February 2019

BREAK THE BARRIERS

GIRLS’ EXPERIENCES OF PERIODS IN THE UK