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3 in 10 girls struggle to afford or access sanitary wear during lockdown

3 in 10 girls struggle to afford or access sanitary wear during lockdown

*For more recent research from May 2021, please see this press release

New research from Plan International UK reveals true extent of period poverty in lockdown, as 3 in 10 girls struggle to afford or access sanitary wear

Almost a third (30%) of girls aged 14-21 have had issues either affording or accessing sanitary wear in lockdown, a survey released today by global children’s charity Plan International UK reveal.

Shockingly, over half (54%) of these girls have used toilet paper as an alternative to period products. But even that hasn’t always been an option during lockdown, as one in five girls (20%) said their periods have also been harder to manage due to the lack of toilet roll available.

Last year, the government made period products freely available in schools across the country in a welcome move to combat period poverty. But with most schools and youth centres closed, girls have been left not knowing where to turn.

Of the 17% of girls who said they have been unable to or struggled to afford sanitary wear in lockdown:

- Over a third (37%) did not try to access any free sources of products

- Two fifths (42%) of those said they did not know where to go to get them

- A third (30%) felt too embarrassed to seek out a source of free products

- 30% did not know who to ask

As the country starts to look to life beyond lockdown, Plan International UK is calling for the groundbreaking progress made on period poverty in recent years to not be allowed to roll back.

The study found that accessing products has been difficult for many, with 1 in 5 (22%) girls having struggled to access products (but been able to afford them). Of these:

- 64% said they could not find them in their local shops

- 17% said they feared catching coronavirus if they left the house

- 15% have been unable to leave the house to go shopping during lockdown.

Rose Caldwell, CEO of Plan International UK, says:

“We have heard so much about access to toilet roll in this pandemic, but we have heard little about girls and young women being left without period products – even though they too are absolutely essential. So these stats should serve as a real eye-opener to the problems girls are facing up and down the country.

“Lockdown has exacerbated the already prevalent problem of period poverty in the UK, and we have heard from girls we work with from Kenya to Nepal that this is being reflected across the globe.

“As we look to an uncertain future, many more families will face tough financial choices, and more young women than ever are likely to face issues affording the products they need. We must commit to ensuring they are supported with free access to products, receive timely education on periods and feel able to talk about the issues they face without fear of shame or stigma.”

Plan International UK encourage girls who want a digital space to discuss their concerns to join its Girls Shout Out community on Instagram or Facebook, moderated by Plan International UK and supported by The Body Shop, where girls can share, discuss and find support for the issues that matter to them during lockdown, including periods.