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Adebusola Abujade / Her Campus Media
Culture > News

Scotland is now the first country in world to make period products freely available for all

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

A historic triumph against period poverty has been achieved: Scotland has become the first country in the world to make period products freely available for all. The innovative government initiative is the first of its kind, inducing significant progress in the global fight against period poverty and the empowerment of women, girls, and all people with periods.

The legislation, which came into effect on Monday 15th August 2022, now means that Scottish local authorities have a legal duty to provide free items, such as tampons, sanitary pads, and menstrual cups to any person who requires them. MSPs unanimously approved the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill in November 2020, which was spearheaded by fervent period poverty campaigner and Labour MSP Monica Lennon. A champion of gender equality and accessibility in the Scottish Government, Ms Lennon MSP led the four year campaign towards universal period product provision and period dignity.

Miss Lennon MSP said: “Local authorities and partner organisations have worked hard to make the legal right to access free period products a reality.” She comments on how this is “another big milestone for period dignity campaigners and grassroots movements which shows the difference that progressive and bold political choices can make.”

The Period Products Act enables anyone who requires period products to access these items through councils and education providers, as well as a mobile app called PickupMyPeriod. The free app allows users to search for nearby public locations where period products are available to be collected, as well as the specific products that are available at each location, and whether disabled access is available. The ground breaking resource also provides important advice and sign posting on women’s health issues, such as endometriosis, menopause, and irregular menstrual cycles. The app also features links to other organisations specialising in help with financial issues, housing, bereavement, food poverty issues, and domestic violence.

Period poverty is defined as people from low economic backgrounds having difficulty affording or accessing suitable period products. Many have described period poverty as some women’s and girls’ distressing dilemma over whether they purchase essential food items or period products, creating a struggle around necessity. Additionally, varying circumstances may heighten the pressure of period poverty – homelessness, controlling and violent relationships, having painful or heavy periods due to conditions such as endometriosis, or being trans. All of these situations can make menstruation a challenging experience and accessibility to period products remains nonetheless essential, yet frustrating. 

A 2018 survey found that of 2,000 young people in Scotland enrolled in secondary school, college, or university, one in four had struggled to access period products in the previous year, with a significant proportion missing school due to their period. With this issue gaining greater salience, that same year, the Scottish Government introduced a scheme to make period products available to students in educational institutions. Consequently, a follow up survey by Young Scot has shown the success of the free period products scheme for students in Scotland, with two thirds of young women and girls in education receiving these products from their institutions.

By expanding the universal provision of period products, the landmark legislation has made huge strides towards achieving period dignity, ending the financial and educational burden of accessing period products, and promoting gender equality. It is now hoped that this pioneering national initiative will encourage other countries to follow suit, with Ms Lennon MSP summing up these sentiments by tweeting, “proud of what we have achieved in Scotland. We are the first but won’t be the last.”

For more information on the bill, please visit http://periodpovertyscotland.weebly.com/.

Madeleine Caven

St. Andrews '25

Madeleine is a Graduate Medicine student at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. She is passionate about women’s health and rights, feminism, psychology, and healthcare accessibility. In her spare time, Madeleine enjoys music, photography, hiking, fashion, travelling, and looking after her plethora of houseplants.