Our Menstrual Manifesto: how we change the conversation about periods in the UK
Today, in the 21st century, periods are still surrounded by shame and stigma in the UK.
But what happens when girls have to hide this universal fact of life? The consequences are a lot more serious than simply tucking your tampon up your sleeve on the way to the toilet every month.
Our latest report, Break the Barriers: Girl's Experiences of Menstruation in the UK, shows that negative talk about periods are damaging girls’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth, putting their physical health at risk and contributing to period poverty.
No girl should have to feel ashamed of her period. That’s why we’re calling for a Menstrual Manifesto, which includes:
1. A commitment to listening to girls and other menstruators
Girls are the experts in their own lives. We need to ask them what they want to learn about periods – and listen to their replies. When it comes to period poverty, the voices of those experiencing it need to be front and centre.
2. A change in the conversation about periods
We all have a responsibility, especially senior leaders and public figures, to tackle the shame and stigma that surround periods, until they become an everyday subject for everyone.
3. Real world education
- All primary and secondary school pupils in the UK need to learn about periods. This must include integrated classes for girls and boys, as well as separate classes that look not just at the biological but also the physical, emotional, social and practical aspects of periods.
- Every school in the UK must provide girls with free access to toilets, which are properly equipped with bins and private washing facilities.
- One in ten girls in the UK have been asked not to talk about their period in front of their mother or father. That’s why online resources for parents need to be developed, so they feel comfortable talking to their children about periods.
4. An end to period poverty
We’re calling on local authorities to pilot a P-card scheme. Based on the popular C-card scheme for contraception, it would enable girls in need to access education about periods and a variety of sanitary products.
5. Companies acting as part of the solution
Companies selling sanitary items must agree to a set of principles around their school engagement. This includes ensuring the speakers they provide are trained, and can educate young people about the biological, social and practical aspects of periods. They should provide information about all available menstrual products, both disposable and reusable, and make sure they include accurate information about their environmental impact.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) also needs to develop guidelines to ensure the accurate – and positive – portrayal of periods.
6. Investment in research
A cross-government working group should be set up on menstrual health management, focusing on research and pilot projects.
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