The End of Period Poverty?

On Wednesday last week (March 13th), Phillip Hammond announced to the House of Commons in his spring statement that the UK government would be introducing a similar shceme to the one implemented by Scotland last year, whereby the Department of Education would provide funds in order to allow schools, colleges and universities across the UK to provide free sanitary products to girls and young women. After years of campaigns such as The Pink Project and the Red Box Project, it seems that Period Poverty may finally be coming to an end.

In the UK, one in ten girls between the ages of 14 and 21 are unable to afford sanitary products. A shocking 49% of girls have missed at least one day of school due to their periods, proving that Period Poverty is something that prevents education for these young women.

Amika George started campaigning two years ago at the age of 17 when she realised that Period Poverty was a real and serious problem, negatively affecting girls all over the country and beyond. She launched a political campaign alongside the Pink Project in order to call to the government’s attention the atrocity of the situation. In our developed society, it is completely unnecessary that some girls are forced to go without basic sanitary products which many people would view as a basic human right. George celebrated the announcement in Commons as an "amazing first step" in the fight against Period Poverty, yet she also called for the policy to be made law so that future generations of girls would not have to experience similar problems during their school years.

The Red Box Project was also heavily involved in campaigning for funding for schools to provide sanitary projects. Many schools rely on female staff to provide for girls who find the self suddenly caught off guard, or they are forced to charge students for the products they do have simply because they do not have the funding to give them away to students. The funding scheme proposed by the government finally promises an end to this.

Last year, Scotland lead the way in the fight against Period Poverty by announcing a £5.2 million scheme for schools, colleges and universities to stock and provide sanitary products to girls free of charge. The recognition of a Period Poverty as a serious issue in our country is an important step with celebrating, and it will hopefully mean that sanitary products become a basic right for girls across the UK, rather than a privilege commodity for only those who can afford it. Girls will now have free access to these snaitary products, meaning that they will no longer have to resort to homemade alternatives, such as socks, tolilet paper or old clothing, as some cases have reported.

How can it have taken so long for our government to recognise Period Poverty as a serious, and completely unecessary, issue? It seems that Wednesday’s announcement from the Chancellor was long overdue especially coming after Scotland's decision last year, and the past 2 years of passionate and public campaigning from projects such as the Red Box and the Pink Project. Matters such as these are too often pushed to the side in the classic fashion of British attitude, which would prefer not to talk about contentious and potentially 'distasteful' issues. Yet this kind of attitude can cause serious problems, and it is high time that we started to tackle more issues such as Period Poverty in our country and further afield. The announcement from the government last Wednesday is certainly a step in the right direction, but there is still much more to be done.