‘Time of the month’. ‘Red tide’. ‘The blob’. ‘Aunt Flo’. And apparently even ‘Emma’ in the German language, which is slightly unfortunate to be sharing a name with. These are some of the many euphemisms for menstruation or being on your ‘period.’ It’s something that, I’d argue universally, causes people to pull a face; go red with embarrassment. Something you’d rather not talk about, at least not directly. The 5,000 and more slang terms and euphemisms do the talking. I clearly remember the day I started my period. The horrible feeling and the sense of dread as I stood up in cooking class, to see a small pool of blood that had seeped onto the chair. I ran to the toilet and realising, of course, that I was unprepared for this, awkwardly scurried up to the reception desk to talk to the school nurse, who thankfully gave me some sanitary pads. I also recall being angry that what she had given me was not, let’s say, adequate for what I was suddenly faced with – I’ve always had heavier periods. But, and it’s a big but, at least I had easy access to sanitary products. In my moment of need, all I had to do was ask and two thinly wrapped pink squares were placed in my hand. All embarrassment aside, my first period experience was safe and sanitary. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
I interviewed Sachi from the UoN Once a Month Team to find out more about period poverty and how students from the University of Nottingham can get involved in the Once a Month campaign.
1. What is period poverty?
Period poverty occurs when people are unable to afford menstruation products such as pads, tampons or liners – things that most of us view as necessities and don’t think twice about affording. It’s a public health crisis that often gets swept under the rug and definitely needs to be spoken about more. Menstrual products aren’t a luxury, and everyone who needs them should have easy access to them!
2. What is Once a Month?
Once a Month is a student-led volunteer project, started in the University of Manchester, where groups of like-minded people come together to pack bags with sanitary products & other essentials for womxn in need.
3. How can students at UoN get involved?
We hope to have some packing sessions next semester, which is a great way for everyone to get involved! Aside from that, joining our Facebook group, engaging with our posts, raising awareness and donating so we can get as many packages out next semester!
4. What made you get involved in Once a Month?
Period poverty is something that’s always been important to me. When I learnt it existed in the UK, I was shocked, and knew that something needed to be done at a local level. I came across Once a Month on the Facebook group “Girls who Graduate” and got connected with the lovely people at the University of Manchester branch, who helped us out so much in starting out here. They’ve done so much positive work there, and we hope that we can do some here too!
As I write this today, Scotland has passed legislation to provide free, universal, access to sanitary products. Hopefully, we’re heading in the right direction.
There is, however, still more to be done. According to UK period poverty charities, people struggling to afford sanitary protection has risen dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, due to increased unemployment and stretched resources. Period poverty continues to be a social issue that many are not aware of. Stigma around menstruation is still at large across the world, with stories of missing school and not being able to afford period products probably being familiar to anyone who menstruates.