Right now we are all watching our money disappear faster through the impact of the war in Ukraine which is pushing up costs of food, heating and fuel.
If you have menstrual cycle bleeds to also budget for, this can cause both physical and mental stress to contend with.
Period poverty has been around for years, when we launched Bloody Marvellous on Facebook, on a daily basis we were asked for free product by both girls and women, who just did not have the finances to stretch to pads or tampons. Some girls were staying home from school, some stealing product. This situation is both heart wrenching to hear about and ridiculous as is an essential product to function in todays society.
In the UK, 1 in 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products, while 1 in 7 have struggled to afford them, according to a representative survey of 1,000 girls and young women aged 14-21 by Plan International UK.
Governments around the world have started to listen and some changes have been made and some are still being campaigned for.
In January 2021, the UK became the latest country to abolish the so-called tampon tax which excepts menstruation products from VAT. Scotland became the first country in the United Kingdom in November 2020 to announce feminine hygiene products would be freely available to all who need them.
In February 2021 Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, announced that all schools would make free menstrual products available to students. Another step forward to reduce period poverty across the world, reducing the number of girls who are negatively affected. Ardern stated that “Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population.”
In the USA period products are subject to a state sales tax in 30 of the 50 US states despite efforts to ban the tax country-wide. See which states are tax free here.
Other countries that have made menstrual products tax-free include Kenya, Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Tanzania, Lebanon, Malaysia, Colombia, South Africa, Namibia, and Rwanda.
Discussions are ongoing in various others, including Brazil and the US, where campaigns in favour of the abolition of the tampon tax, often led by women’s rights activists, have been gathering political momentum.
No matter how wealthy a nation is, female students are found to be at risk of not being able to afford tampons or other products and missing their education on a monthly basis.
A survey of 2000 women, aged between 18 and 55, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of menstrual cup brand Intimina, found the average woman spends £10.24 a month on period products, adding up to roughly £4,916 over a woman’s average reproductive lifetime. Same survey in USA is here.
So what is period poverty?
Period poverty is when a person is lacking access to menstrual products, education and hygiene resources needed when having a monthly bleed. This includes working toilets, laundry facilities to wash underwear and access to clean water.
For some of us when our bleed cycle arrives we already have a supply of pads, tampons or a more environmentally sustainable option such as menstrual cups, reusable pads or discs.
Imagine you don’t have any of these products, imagine that you are too embarrassed or don’t know what is happening to your body. What if your family can’t afford to buy the products for you? Do you skip school, do you use toilet paper or an old sock?
Period Poverty is not just about a few days a month where you bleed, it affects a persons hygiene, body positivity, education, confidence and the ability to work. Globally, it’s estimated about 500 million women don’t have access to period products and related hygiene resources.
How does period poverty impact mental health
Period poverty goes beyond financial concerns and can have a huge impact on mental health. We are all slightly uncomfortable and aware of leaks during our bleed so how would you feel knowing you don’t have adequate protection all day and all night for a week?
Higher risk of infection
Without access to products like pads, cups or tampons, you are left with making alternates with socks, torn fabric, toilet paper or tissues and even newspaper.
The issues that arise from these DIY products is that the menstrual blood is not absorbed away from the skin, this can cause infections of the vulvar skin and skin irritations.
If you can afford some period products for your cycle but don’t have enough, you might be tempted to use the pad or tampon for a longer time, which 51% of teens surveyed admitted to doing, again leading to a higher risk of infections.
Declining mental health
Girls and women of all ages often feel embarrassment, uncomfortable and guilty when they can not adequately manage their monthly bleed. There is still the stigma around menstrual cycles, which we want to irradiate as no female should ever feel uncomfortable about having a natural and monthly bleed during her cycle.
A 2021 study of women in college found 68.1 percent of those dealing with period poverty showed symptoms of moderate-to-severe depression.
School, Work & Play
Not being able to go to school, once a month, because you don’t have adequate product to manage your period means you are missing out on your education.
A study by PHS Group with 250 young people suggests 35% of girls aged 13-18 have taken time off school or college because of their period, with 11% of those claiming they missed school due to lack of affordability of period products.
What many girls don’t know is that all UK schools can now give out menstrual products for free when asked. So just save this graphic on your technology, or print it out and show it to your teacher or school nurse for free product.
A survey conducted by OnePoll for INTIMINA sampled 2,000 American women ages 18 – 55 and found that 920 of them had either cancelled a date or left work early because they did not have enough of the menstrual products they were using.
End the stigma
Here at Bloody Marvellous we want to help end the stigma around menstrual cycles by explaining, education and understanding the problems you face with your bleed and the monthly cycle. Every week will will add to our voice with educational tips and tricks how to solve the issues you and every other person who owns a vagina.
UK Supermarkets & Stores Offering Free Period Products
While you can’t currently access free menstrual hygiene products in Boots, the pharmacy is a brand partner of The Hygiene Bank. The Hygiene Bank supplies everything from period pads and tampons to shampoo and deodorant to people who need them. There’s product drop off points in big Boots retailers and by donating, you’ll be giving people the products they need that so often aren’t donated to food banks.
Superdrug works closely with hygiene poverty charity, Beauty Banks, which operates on the belief that being clean is a basic human right. They’re working to make hygiene poverty a thing of the past and to extend access to menstrual products to those who need them. They have donation points in over 100 Superdrug stores across the UK making it really easy to do your bit in the fight against period poverty.
A new Morrisons’ initiative called “Ask for Sandy” allows customers who menstruate to discreetly access sanitary products from selected stores. The note which is found in certain shops reads: “Please don’t feel shy. If you are in need or struggling for sanitary products go to our customer service kiosk (Next to Timpsons) and ask for a package that SANDY has left for you. You will then be given a FREE discreet envelope with what you need no questions asked.”
Lidl Ireland has partnered with homeless charity Simon Community and Homeless Period Ireland to provide free pads and tampons to adults and children who need them. You can sign up for free monthly coupons through the Lidl Plus app, which will be distributed from May 3.
ASDA, Co-op, & Waitrose
ASDA, the Co-op, and Waitrose are brand partners and supporters of Hey Girls UK, a period brand working to tackle period poverty across the UK. They have produced a line of chlorine and bleach-free, environmentally-friendly period products and by purchasing them, either from the Hey Girl UK website website or in a supporting supermarket, you’ll also be donating products to others in the UK who can’t afford to buy them. The company says it has donated 14.9 million period products since its inception.
How to help – Donations
Food banks and local shelters also provide period products. If you can afford to donate just one pack for another woman please do. Or you can make a monetary donation to an organisations working to end period poverty.
We donated over £10,000 worth of physical stock to Period Power in January 2021, when we were aware of so many women and girls struggling during the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. #BMarvellous
This article originally appeared in www.greatist.com
Bloody Marvellous Limited goes to great lengths to ensure that, to the best of its knowledge, the information provided on this website and its social media channels is correct at the time of publication and/or subsequent modification. This information is solely for general purposes. It has been prepared in order to provide information, education and related products/services offered by Bloody Marvellous and Associated Organisations.