Period Poverty Campaign

Information Pack

Period Poverty is the inability to gain access to clean menstrual hygiene products and having poor knowledge of menstruation often due to financial constraints. Period Poverty affects women, girls and people who menstruate all over the world.

Access to menstrual products, safe spaces in which to use them, and the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma, is essential to anyone who menstruates. For many, this is not a reality. This is not just a potential health risk – it can also mean girls’ education, well-being, and sometimes entire lives are affected.

Period products aren’t always free and accessible in the UK, and it is estimated that over 137,000 children across the UK have missed school days due to period poverty.

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With increased inflation and rising energy bills, many have been forced to prioritise other household essentials over buying sanitary products. According to a survey in 2022 commissioned by ActionAid UK, nearly one in eight women in Great Britain have struggled to buy menstrual products since the start of the cost of living crisis at the end of 2021. More people in the UK are being pushed into poverty, highlighting that period poverty is not restricted to poorer countries.

Moreover, with women having to cut back on spending on sanitary products, many are resorting to makeshift measures to manage their periods, such as keeping tampons in for longer or using tissues in their underwear in place of a sanitary pad, which can be ineffective and unsafe.

Several charities across the UK are working to eradicate period poverty and provide free menstrual products. There has also been a rise in the use of Hygiene Banks in the UK – services that provide access to toiletries and other essential hygiene items, including sanitary products. Free products can also be found at most food banks.

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Period poverty is a distinctly global phenomenon, it is not confined to 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, 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 the 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 inform on 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. It's 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, and 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, 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.
  • 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.

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