It is a man’s world, even in 21st century Scotland, with male decision makers making up 70% of the Civil Service, it’s vital that we highlight the horrifying indignity and inequalities, that women who are faced with homelessness live with, to everyone who can make a difference. Makeshift sanitary products, such as socks and cobbled together tampons, are their reality on a regular basis. In fact, 60% of a sample group of women we support have no clean underwear before, during or after their period.
At Simon Community Scotland, we engage, listen and respond to the most vulnerable. Our Street Team, who work on the frontline, providing vital support to those sleeping rough, hear these horrifying and needless insights on a daily basis. As a result we have been responding in a discrete way to meet the needs of women for some years now.
We realised our discretion doesn’t challenge the issue nearly enough and so in August this year we launched our ‘Period Friendly Campaign’ to both meet the practical needs of the most marginalised women in our society. We also want to highlight the issue more and galvanise support of the entire country to stand shoulder to shoulder with us, and the women we represent, to end this needless indignity.
Meeting people where they are at and building relationships is the secret to our longstanding success as Scotland’s largest homelessness provider. We listened and responded to the needs of the women we support and created ‘Period Friendly Packs’. Going beyond just the products themselves and also supplying: sanitary towels, tampons, wipes, pants, and even a bar of chocolate.
Our role in creating the campaign is to establish a platform to invite the support of many stakeholder groups: the general public, whom we affectionately call ‘Period Friendly Pals’ who volunteer with us to establish ‘Period Friendly Points’ - public toilet facilities where we can set up stations of these products for easy access to those who need them. Then there are those who donate supplies of products, organisations such as Glasgow University, through their ‘ Red Alert Appeal’ and many others who have linked arms with us to positively impact lives. We also want to look wider to identify key influencers who share our vision, such as MSP Monica Lennon, and the incredible work she is doing nationally to highlight the plight of all women’s period poverty.
The overriding message is that solving this issue takes courage and requires the collective hearts and minds of people right across Scotland who continue to challenge the inequality of opportunity as they go about their daily lives. This is a battle that we can win by working together.
As soon as you bring up the issue of eradication period poverty or the free provision of sanitary products, it naturally creates a debate: but the comment I have heard most in response to this issue is “well men get free condoms” - but what does that actually mean and how does it fit into the context of this debate and subsequent idea of universal access to free sanitary products?
Well to begin with, the statement is true: you can access condoms for free. That’s the purpose of the c-card - anyone can pick up one of these cards up and take it along to any of the registered dispensary points. Not only that but you get to pick from 11 different types with the scheme boasting that on your first time using the C-card you will receive a variety and so you know to find out what best suits you.
Monica Lennon MSP’s consultation on how we actually implement universal access to free sanitary products has taken inspiration from the C-card scheme. Just like the c-card, this would be available to all who want it. When taken to the relevant dispensing point, there would be a choice of what sanitary products you would prefer.
And this is where the crucial part comes in and why only by implementing universal free access to sanitary products will we be doing ALL we can to eliminate period poverty from our society - creating that equality that is truly available to all.
There are families now across Scotland with 2, 3 or maybe even more daughters who are struggling to cover the cost of sanitary products. If means tested, they would not get access to whatever benefit would entitle them to free sanitary provisions and this is just one example why this would not be the benefit of Scotland and the campaign to eradicate period poverty.
We see people across our country turning to food banks for sanitary products and we of course have a duty to them to do all we can to ensure that in the future no person is forced to go to a food bank at all. But we also have a duty to those currently on the brink, struggling by, just making it - but not at that stage YET of having to access a food bank.
With rising living costs we see everyday that more and more people are struggling to make ends meet. We can take a stand and do something now to do what is best for Scotland in tackling the growing problem of period poverty. Make free access to sanitary products universal because it’s the right thing to do.
I am a 60 year old man and men of my vintage don’t, or at least until very recently didn’t, talk about periods.
Of course because men have always held disproportionate sway over what could and should be discussed, and therefore in determining what is and isn’t important, there have been no speeches on menstruation.
For this, and countless other gender-based failings, men should, and this one does, apologise.
It’s self-evident that I cannot know the lived experience of one of nature’s essential features. However, the same can be said of many other things, once shunned in public discourse, but now everyday parlance.
Our communities have been blighted by austerity, that conscious, pernicious decision taken by far-away, and out of touch, politicians. In my constituency work I’ve been confronted by the brutal consequences of poverty and, until recently, that was poverty which had implications for housing, energy and well-being. Thus far at least, no-one has come to me and mentioned ‘period poverty’. Perhaps why would they speak about it to a middle-aged man?
Raising awareness of an issue is fundamental to seeking policy change. I regret I am late to this matter and thank Monica and others for highlighting it. I’m troubled to think of the additional anguish that has, and continues to be caused by period poverty and it must end.
I wish Monica well in her efforts to right a wrong and improve things for women and girls and I hope that all ‘men of my vintage’ give her their support