Tackling Period Poverty

PERIODS. Now I’ve got your attention, I’d like to explain a little more about ‘Period Poverty’ and what that means to the women and young ladies of South Leeds.

Men please keep reading, we need your help too!

Considered a taboo subject, menstruation is actually one of the most natural things most women will experience in their lifetime and ladies, there is NOTHING to be ashamed about when it comes to your monthly cycle.

There are a lot of products on offer to help cover that time of the month but what happens when you can’t afford to purchase these essential items. The government levy VAT on sanitary pads and tampons which means they are considered a luxury!

Every month women and girls will stuff their pants with toilet roll they’ve taken from their work or school toilet, this is both uncomfortable but also unsanitary and degrading as they offer little protection and are bled through easily. The cost for purchasing the ‘luxury goods’ (tampons or pads) has been calculated on average to be £10 a month or, wait for it. £128 a year!

Some girls skip school at that time of the month because they haven’t got access to sanitary protection, this means girls are missing out on valuable and sometimes critical lessons at school for something that is natural and easily managed with the right support. According to Freedom4girls a Leeds teacher was so concerned about girls missing classes she approached the charity for help.

There are some places in Leeds that are building up momentum in tackling this problem, Freedom4girls is one of the charities. Leeds City Council themselves have started a pilot scheme to try and combat this form of poverty in Leeds and research sustainable long-term solutions to tackle period poverty.

The Hunslet Community Hub and Library is a pioneer for providing sanitary products as a result of this initiative, if you are in the area and short of items or know someone who is please drop in.

I dropped in to see how the system works and the ladies on the desk are very discreet and friendly, you just need to say the word “Pack 1” to someone with a purple lanyard and they will discreetly pass you a pack of pads. If you really can’t face speaking to someone go into the little cubicle and there is a box of products for you to use as you need.

It’s a great service and will hopefully help out women in the local community. If you’re in the position to please consider donating tampons or pads to them and there are many other ways to help too.

David from the Holbeck Foodbank explained how their system works:

“We already give out sanitary products with the food parcels if it’s to a woman or family with teenagers. We receive the products from FareShare through the food aid network in Leeds and have done for a couple of years.”

Angus Smith, Assistant Headteacher at Cockburn School told us:

“At Cockburn School we recognise that if girls do not have access to a safe and hygienic way to deal with menstruation, this can impact on their education. We provide girls with sanitary products freely and have done for a significant number of years.

“We feel that doing this not only gives girls the sanitary products, but helps to take away the stigma associated with periods and gives girls the confidence to ask for products. We are part of the The Red Box project which supports schools with free period products.”

If you are able to, please consider donating sanitary products along with food to the foodbanks. Also check out freedom4girls and have a look at their services and support, if you don’t need support yourself perhaps you can offer your own time to help someone else! One way I have tried to help in vigilante style is leaving boxes of products if I visit a public place such as the White Rose toilets and similar places.

I think the last thing we need to realise is that periods are normal and shouldn’t be something hidden away from society. Girls growing up need to know that they are normal and there are plenty of ways they can deal with their monthly gift from mother nature. If you or a family you know is struggling with this issue please approach the above services for help and don’t suffer alone!