This Is Why We Need To End Period Poverty In The UK. Now.

Sanitary products need to be affordable for all. Period.

How is period poverty affecting our country?

by Tara Castiglioni |

After learning that girls were missing school as they couldn’t afford to buy sanitary products, 18-year-old student from North London, Amika George, decided to take action. She started a campaign called #freeperiods with the aim to break down the stigma surrounding menstruation and help provide free sanitary products for all girls already on free school meals.

Research from Plan International has suggested that in the UK alone, one in 10 young women between the ages of 14 and 21 have been affected by this issue at some point in their lives and that 12% of those interviewed have even had to improvise sanitary wear due to financial problems.

In order to do something about such shocking figures, Amika will be leading a peaceful protest at Richmond Terrace in Westminster, London later today, to urge the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to provide free menstruation products for those in low income families.

It doesn't have to be like this. In Scotland, the first country in the world to give women and girls access to free sanitary products. The country's S Card system means that young women can access whatever they need simply by discreetly showing a piece of card either at school or at a local clinic. Surely, there is no reason that we couldn't have a similar system in England?

A [BBC]( report has recently estimated that on average women will have 456 periods – that means that on average throughout our lifetime, we menstruate for just over 6 years! During this time, it is estimated that we will spend around £1,500 on tampons/sanitary towels alone.

Why should we pay? And, more importantly, why is there not more support for those who can't afford to pay? If the roles were reversed and men had a period every month, this taboo around periods and the idea of period poverty simply wouldn’t exist.

In fact, Gloria Steinmen in her 1978 essay If Men Could Menstruate’ went as far to suggest that 'young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day'.

She went on, 'to prevent monthly work loss among the powerful, Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea. Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps'.

Steinem's 1978 observations are more pertinent than ever, she noted that if men had periods, 'sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free'. We don't doubt it.

But its not just about the cost. What about education? According to the Huffington Post only 6% of women use moon cups in comparison to the 24% of people who only use tampons, 31% who only use towels and 39% who use both. Moon cups are an option that could save a lot of money as they are both reusable and long lasting. By promoting schools to raise awareness/educate the youth about the different types of alternatives available to them, young girls could make more informed decisions about the most cost effective and safe way to handle their periods.

And it's not just women, men need to be educated as well in order to dispels the myths and shatter this shame surrounding menstruation. A good example of destroying this stigma was Body Form's advertising campaign earlier this year that finally featured red rather than blue liquid to depict menstrual blood. It's small steps like this that can help society realise that periods are not something disgusting and abnormal but instead are a part of natural life, that we shouldn't have to pay extra for.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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