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Five things you can do to end period poverty

Five things you can do to end period poverty

Yesterday, hundreds of campaigners gathered in London for the #FreePeriods march.

Together, they highlighted the urgent need to bring an end to period poverty, and to make sure every girl has access to the sanitary products she needs to manage her period each month.

Here are five ways you can help make that change happen.   

1. Help us show that period poverty is real

Every month, girls in the UK are struggling to cover the cost of their periods. Our research shows that:

  • One in ten girls have found themselves unable to afford sanitary products
  • One in seven girls (14%) have had to ask to borrow a sanitary product from a friend
  • More than one in ten girls (12%) have had to improvise a sanitary product

If you’ve had an experience like this, or know someone who has, your story can help us map the extent of period poverty and the impact it’s having on girls’ lives. You can share you story with us on Twitter or Facebook.

2. Make time to listen to every girl

Girls coping with poverty are often not listened to, even about the issues that affect their own lives.

Meanwhile, the needs of vulnerable groups are frequently overlooked when it comes to period poverty. Homeless women, asylum seekers and refugees are all particularly at risk, as are girls and women with disabilities and gynaecological conditions, whose voices often go unheard.

That’s why we have to listen – and put the voices of all girls at the heart of any change.

Photo of Jess, 17, on a swing.
“I do feel like there’s a stigma around the topic of periods. If people spoke about periods more without the stigma, it could help a lot of people.” - Jess, 17, UK

3. Take the Department for Education’s survey

It’s almost the end of 2017. Yet 14% of girls told us they didn’t know what was happening when they first started their period, while 26% didn’t know what to do.

Schools play a huge role here, which is why the new Relationships and Sex Education curriculum – currently under consultation and due to be rolled out in September 2019 – is so significant.

It needs to address the topic of periods in all its aspects for both girls and boys, encourage open discussion and bust the stigma and taboos that continue to surround periods.

Right now, the Department for Education is asking for opinions on what the new curriculum should include. You can fill out their survey here – and as well as highlighting the importance of learning about periods, why not remind them that education on consent and ending violence against women is urgently needed too.

4. Become an ambassador for the P-card scheme

No girl should go without sanitary wear because she can’t afford it or is too embarrassed to ask.

That’s why, based on the successful C-Card scheme running across the UK to provide condoms, we believe a new P-card scheme, making products and education freely available to all girls in need, should be implemented as a way to address period poverty. If you work with decision makers or local providers, now’s the time to talk to them about the scheme.

In schools, distribution of sanitary wear should be accompanied by an end to policies which restrict girls' access to toilets, and an end to a culture in which girls stay at home to manage their periods, are distracted in lessons due to worries about leaking, and are too embarrassed to talk to staff when they need to.

5. Help end the shame and stigma surrounding periods

Period poverty isn’t always an easy thing to talk about. Why? Because periods still go hand-in-hand with shame and stigma.

Today, we know that 48% of girls aged 14-21 have been made to feel embarrassed by their periods, while 71% have felt embarrassed buying sanitary products.

Talking about periods, and ending the taboos that surround them, means we can better equip every girl with the products and information she needs to manage her periods effectively, without shame or embarrassment – something that every girl growing up in the 21st century doesn’t just deserve, but should be able to expect.

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