Period Poverty Campaign

Information Pack

The primary definition of Period Poverty is the inability to gain access to clean menstrual hygiene products. Other definitions have been expanded to include the lack of knowledge surrounding menstrual hygiene, which can often stem from social and cultural restrictions, as well as poor health education. The result of both a lack of access and a lack of knowledge is period poverty, and it affects millions of women in the UK.

Bloody Good Period and Freedom4Girls are the two main period poverty charities working to put an end to the issue in the United Kingdom. Both have the dual focuses of ending period poverty and providing menstrual education for those who have had limited access to it previous.

Many issues have been exacerbated by the current Covid-19 pandemic, and period poverty is no exception. In simple terms: periods don’t stop during global pandemics. Research from the organisation Menstrual Hygiene Day, found that 47% of girls and women in 160 countries found it more difficult obtaining period products throughout the pandemic (October 2020). In response to this, charities have increased their provision for those who menstruate, and in the period between March to November 2020 Bloody Good Period had supplied over 60,000 products, which is almost 6 times their pre pandemic distribution! In context, pre pandemic Bloody Good Period distribute on average 2,000 products per month. Most of these supplies are directed towards charitable institutions and organisations such as: refugee centres, food banks, community support centres, those fleeing domestic violence, and homeless shelters.

This help has also been making its way to key workers, such as nurses. During the United Kingdom’s first lockdown, 700 packs of menstrual products were provided to NHS workers because they were unable to access supermarkets and other essential services.

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Since 2014 feminist activists have been trying to abolish the ‘Tampon Tax’. The 5% tax that was on all women’s sanitary products. Although smaller than the normal 20% VAT, the fact that there was a tax at all meant sanitary products were classed as a ‘luxury’ and ‘non-essential’ item by law. For perspective, some of the items which are considered more essential than women’s pads and tampons include: edible sugar flowers, kangaroo and crocodile meat, helicopters and toffee apples!

Whilst leaving the EU has had certain benefits in the fight against the tampon tax as we were able to be rid of this outdated product classification, EU law has also been progressing in this direction. So, whilst the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced in March 2020 that we would scrap the Tampon Tax in January 2021, a lot of other EU countries will be following suit in 2022.

The move away from the tampon tax has been in the works for quite some time, and has frustrated many feminist activists. The Conservative government had initially promised to scrap the Tampon Tax in 2016, but because of the EUs ‘5% minimum tax’ rule they said they were unable to. However, removing this rule has been in negotiations since 2018, when the European Commission negotiated to remove this rule. This allowed member states the autonomy to stop charging the tampon tax. Despite this, no progress was made until Sunak’s announcement.

But, the tampon tax is not the only way in which women and non-binary people are disadvantaged when it comes to sanitary products. Another hidden tax that we must keep vigilant for the Pink Tax. Whilst this isn’t a law, nonetheless women are still charged much higher rates for the same basic goods when it comes to sanitary products. This is a capitalist manifestation of misogynist ideas that results in women and non-binary people paying a premium on basic items.

For example: deodorant. On average, women’s deodorant is 8.9% more expensive than men’s. This also plays out in the realm of basic clothing, like underwear. On average a pack of women’s underwear is 5.8% more than a man’s. Perhaps it’s cheaper just to throw gender norms out the windows, ladies.

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It’s important to remember that it is not just cisgender women who menstruate, people who present as male, such as transgender men and non-binary people, can also menstruate. This often leaves these groups facing mental blocks when trying to buy sanitary products, as they may feel it takes away from their ‘masculinity’ because periods are so often gendered as female. Even in the process of transition, when some may still present as female, a sense of shame and gender dysmorphia can affect their ability to access sanitary products safely.

The experience of being trans often brings with it other difficulties as well which can increase a person’s propensity to experience period poverty. 25% of trans people have experienced homelessness at some point in their life and Action for Trans Health state that trans people are at a higher risk of homelessness. This increases their risk of experiencing period poverty.

Periods are a sensitive subject and this shows in British culture surround periods. This leads to much of the education being limited, and conversations involving periods are managed through ‘subtle social queues’, which particularly affect the experience of neuro-divergent people.

For instance, if someone starts their period but doesn’t have a pad or tampon. You ask someone to ‘borrow a pad’? However, Robyn Steward found that these types of situations were often difficult for neuro-diverse people to navigate, because no one had explained to them they a) weren’t actually ‘borrowing’ the pad and b) didn’t need to replace the pad they had ‘borrowed’. The negative experiences that neuro-divergent people often have surrounding the issue of periods can be alleviated through better education and better provision of sanitary products so as to avoid ‘borrowing’ situations. When combating Period Poverty, we need to be offering a full range of products and a proper education to ensure that individuals can make an informed choice that is right for them and their bodies.

The necessity of an intersectional approach to ending period poverty is also seen when considering the multicultural make-up of Britain. In some cultures, for instance, women are shamed and prohibited from wearing tampons because they are believed to be for ‘bad women’. The lack of comprehensive sex education and the stern belief that a woman must bleed on her wedding night, in order to prove her virginity and purity, stops people from using the correct sanitary products for them. These stereotypes are enforced by both men and women indoctrinated by the patriarchal norms of their culture.

We must adopt an intersectional approach to ending period poverty that takes into account the experiences of minorities, transgender people, and neuro-divergent people!

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Period poverty is a distinctly global phenomenon, it is not confined to the shores of the United Kingdom. 26% of the global population is female and of a reproductive age, many do not have access to a hygienic source of water or permanent and durable housing, let alone to sanitary products such as tampons and pads. This makes the situation in the global south particularly acute.

The lack of access to sanitary products widens attainment gaps between males and females. 1 in 10 girls in Africa report that they miss school regularly because of a lack of sanitary products to deal discretely with their periods. In Southeast Asia, the same figure is as high as 4 in 10. Research conducted in Rwanda specifically shows that girls miss up to 50 days of school or work every year because of period poverty and stigma surrounding menstruation.

There are signs of hope in improving the quality, and access to, menstrual education. In South Africa, for example, the increase in the use of social media is being harnessed to educate girls and the wider society on how to take care of menstruation. Projects like Qrate ZA and The Cora Project have resolved to use the new digital space and the relatively young, tech-savvy population of South Africa to bring information to the new generation.

Despite the progress achieved, much more needs to be done, and the situation has only worsened with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. The release of the Plan International research document on World Menstrual Health Day on 28th May 2020 laid bare the devastating impact of the pandemic on menstrual health. For example, the survey reported a 58% increase in the price of products, a 54% reduction in access to clean water to manage periods, and a 68% increase in restriction to accessing facilities ot change, clean, and dispose of period products.

The road towards ending period poverty is long, and it is global.

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Sanitary products can often have a negative impact on our environment. Over the past decade, the conversation around periods has grown to include a discussion of how we can best take care of ourselves whilst also taking care of the environment. Obviously, your health and comfort come first when it comes to your period, and you should use which ever products make you the most comfortable. The information provided here is for those who wish to expand their education on the negative consequences of products that we consume and eco-friendly alternatives.

Tampons and sanitary pads are some of the most ineffective products when it comes to plastic waste. For instance, a study found that an average pack of sanitary pads was equal to 5 plastic carrier bags. This means that in a pack of pads there is an average of 36g of plastic! There is also a serious issue with tampons and pads ending up in landfills and in the ocean because people are flushing them down the toilet. Its estimated that 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary pads are flushed down a toilet every day in the UK.

One way to combat this is through sustainable period products. Solutions include: menstrual/ moon cups, reusable pads, reusable tampon applicators, applicator free tampons, period underwear. However, these solutions do not come cheap. Reusable period products can be expensive (ranging from £15-£30) so it may be something you save for/build up over time. As these are reusable products please follow all the care instructions provided by the manufacturer!
  • Menstrual/Moon Cup, average cost £20, can be kept in for up to around 10 hours and can last up to 10 years. If you’re not a fan of tampons, this is most likely not the product for you.
  • Reusable Tampon Applicator, £17 and kept for life! Although it can take a little bit of getting used to, it is said to be extremely comfortable and very easy to use.
  • Reusable Pads and Period Underwear, cost about £10-£15 per pad/ piece of underwear and last about 4-6 years. These are recommended for people who prefer pads. These also come in gender neutral versions which are ideal for male-presenting people who may not wish to be outed for having periods.

Look at for some companies which will have ‘starter kits’ where they will send you three different pads to try out to see what fits you best/what you are most comfortable with-highly recommend! Another way of keeping your use of sanitary products green is by buying small fabric bags to keep the used pads in if you need to change while out and about. This way you can dispose of them in a more ecological way.

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