Fife Council Area to Provide Free Sanitary Products for Those in Need

Do you think paying exorbitant prices for basic sanitery products is a little outdated? Me too. Luckily, it seems that Fife Council is taking a step forward!

Since August 2020, Fife Council has been providing free sanitary products for anyone living in the Fife area who cannot afford them through an online ordering service, and the only prerequisite is a Fife postcode. Moreover, not only are the products free, but they are reusable. Menstrual waste creates 200,000 tonnes in the landfill each year, and pads are around 90% plastic. With this in mind, Fife Council is offering reusable pads, menstrual cups and period pants.

The move follows a bill currently being processed in the Scottish parliament, which aims to provide free sanitary products to those in need across the country. If this bill goes through, Scotland will be the first country in the world to provide free sanitary pads to anyone in need of them.

Currently, period products are free for schools and universities in the UK, but this bill, proposed by MSP Monica Lennon, would allow far greater access to all. Given the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19, this would be an important step forward. Charities have reported that the number of women and girls facing period poverty has risen sharply during the coronavirus lockdown. National charity Bloody Good Period has said that while it usually distributes 5,000 packs a month, in the three months after the lockdown began on 23 March 2020, it has since handed out over 23,000.

Fife Council’s decision not only provides practical help to those in need of sanitary products, but also helps to deconstruct the problem of period shame, an issue which should not be so prevelant in 2020. Typically, girls and women deliberately request their products privately, but the blatant advertisement of this service on the Council’s website and social media pages marks a step in the direction of normalising and destigmatizing menstruation.

Furthermore, this decision is a significant step foreward in terms of governments recognising sanitary products as essential, and not luxury products - something many other countries have been coming to realize in recent years with the lowering or revocating of their own sanitary product taxes. In the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced the elimination of the ‘tampon tax’ in March of this year. The tax will be scrapped once the UK leaves the European Union on December 31st 2020. The BBC has calculated that this will save the average woman £40 over her lifetime, with a tax cut of 7p on a pack of 20 tampons and 5p on packs of 12 pads.

Of course, there is still work to do. UK charities have reported that many schools and universities are not aware they can order free period products; just under 40% of state schools have placed orders since the initiative was launched in the UK in January 2020. There definitely needs to be more awareness regarding the help available for not just individuals, but institutions, when it comes to providing sanitary products. That said, action such as that of our very own Fife Council will set a precedent - hopefully one which will be emulated by other local regions, and then on national and international levels.