Claudia is sick of being skint cos she spent all her money on basic menstruation needs.
Regular truancy during a specific time of the month is increasing rapidly among UK schoolgirls…
Socks, tissues and sellotape. Those are just a few of the supplies school girls around the UK are having to use as a substitute for sanitary products. Although it’s damaging to their health, due to desperation, many don’t have a choice. Most of us are already aware of period poverty in developing countries and among homeless women but now our attention has been drawn to the epidemic right on our doorstep, or more appropriately our school gates.
Regular truancy during a specific time of the month is increasing rapidly among UK schoolgirls, as free school meal students feel shameful and miss school due to not having access to sanitary products. Not everyone has the privilege of easily asking a family member to buy them tampons and pads. With Tesco recently becoming the UK’s first supermarket to pay the tampon tax for its customer, the public need to be educated about the scale of period poverty occurring in the UK.
Some schools around the UK have a few spare sanitary products in their reception for accidents and emergencies, however little thought has been put into regularly providing products for girls from deprived backgrounds. Female education is at risk, due to menstruation still being treated as a taboo. These girls would rather compromise their educational opportunities to stay at home, as they’re too scared to go into school on their period without any protection.
Female education is at risk, due to menstruation still being treated as a taboo.
Your teenage years are already uncomfortable as our changing bodies fill us with insecurity. For example standing up and fearing you have leaked or believing somehow people ‘know’ that you are on your period. Now imagine the level of insecurity these girls must feel who are so desperate they are having to sellotape toilet paper to their knickers. It’s no wonder why they refuse to attend school when they could be at home in their dressing gown with access to a toilet that they can use without seeking permission to go.
Amika George, the creator of the petition that sparked this discussion has teamed up with tampon tax campaigners, with the aim to make schools provide sanitary products to free school meal students. The successful petition has already accumulated over 11,000 supporters. The 17-year-old student has already got the support of politicians, such as Labour MP Helen Goodman in the House of Commons who questioned if ‘the Government offers any provision of female sanitary products for women who consider themselves unable to afford such products’.
It’s evident that Amika is already bettering the education for many UK girls as she’s ignited a thought-provoking discussion concerning a topic many of us would’ve been ignorantly unaware of.
Having to cope with cramps, mood-swings and other PMS symptoms every month is already unpleasant…
Amika discovered that school girls were experiencing period poverty ‘when it came to light that the charity Freedom4Girls, who send sanitary products to girls in Kenya was approached by a school in Leeds’ she adds “I was just horrified that this was happening in our country in 2017′.
Having to cope with cramps, mood-swings and other PMS symptoms every month is already unpleasant, now imagine having ‘to deal with the shame, embarrassment and loss of dignity in making your own sanitary provision’ says Amika. As a result of menstruation still being treated as a taboo, girls feel too ashamed to seek help from their school.
In terms of period poverty’s long term affects, it feeds back into the cycle of deprivation. Due to the structure of our society many struggle with trying to break out of deprivation, now imagine how much harder this must be for girls who are forced to regularly truant.
Amika says, ‘They start to feel isolated and the more they miss school, the further they fall behind and the more any ambition starts to dissipate’.
The online petition has already made a significant impact Amika explains, ‘people have been writing to their MPs, it’s been so encouraging. The comments left on the petition have been really humbling and serves to remind me just why I’m doing this’.
Amika encourages everyone to write to their local MP, ‘it’s so important that we voice our concerns and ask which parties are brave enough to tackle period poverty. Tell your MP that we need change’.
What do you think? Should sanitary products be cheaper? Should they be free if you GO TO SCHOOL!? Talk to us. Comment. Tweet. All the usuals… @rifemag
Support more young people to have their voices heard
Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.
We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.
In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important.
Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.