On Tuesday the 24th of November 2020 the Free Period Products Bill will go into its final stage (stage three) of parliament. For women and girls across the country, this Bill could be life-changing and it couldn't have come at a better time. With the levels of period poverty rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic, women and girls in Scotland need access to free sanitary products now more than ever.
Period Poverty is when a woman or girl can't afford to buy sanitary products due to low income. For example, the cheapest box of tampons you can buy from supermarket ASDA is £0.80 for 32, for 14 sanitary towels, it is £0.54. Although that might not seem like a lot of money most women menstruate every month for 3-8 days. This means that even buying the cheapest option, by the end of the year if you were to buy one box of tampons every month it would cost £9.60 and for sanitary towels £6.48, this is based on one woman menstruating in a household each month. It is an essential item that some simply can't afford. The stigma around periods makes it hard for people to open up and admit that they are unable to afford these products, so what do they resort to? Toilet paper, newspaper and even socks are just some of the 'period products' that are available to 1 in 10 women. For them, if this Bill were to pass it would mean that every month they would be able to access free sanitary products.
I became involved in this subject after thinking about the topic of period poverty during the National Lockdown. I started to question the availability of period products in Primary Schools throughout Scotland.
I know that before the National Lockdown many High Schools provided pupils with free sanitary products. I thought this was a very beneficial plan to help combat period poverty during the five months that followed. After speaking to a friend who started her period in primary school, I was intrigued to find out if Primary Schools were providing the same service.
I decided to get in touch with my Primary School Head Teacher to find out more about the topic. She was very interested in this subject and informed me that the Primary School was not being provided with free period products for their pupils. At all. They do have a small supply of sanitary products that they’ve purchased with their budget as part of their first aid box. If a girl starts her period or requires to use a sanitary product within the primary school she must go to the school office and ask a member of staff. Whilst I may be making an assumption I would imagine this would cause a certain degree of embarrassment or humiliation as there may be other young pupils standing around overhearing this discussion.
To me, I feel that it is so important that period products are provided freely in Primary Schools for many different reasons. Younger girls are more embarrassed about having their periods, it’s a strange new change in their bodies and most won’t have the confidence to go and ask a teacher or member of staff for period products, therefore,
products must be provided for them easily and freely when they need them most. Ideally, these products could be placed in a cupboard of an empty classroom so that girls can easily access them without having to ask. Pupils would learn about how to access these products when they are taught about menstruation in Health Education. By placing products in all schools you are helping to combat the growing issue of period poverty as a whole.
I also think that it is important for young girls whose parents have separated, or girls who don’t have a mother figure in their life to have access to period products. It may be difficult for the girl to tell her father or carer that she is menstruating, therefore if the girl needed products she should have access to them at school or through other community centres.
The topic of Period Poverty and Period Dignity is very personal to me and something I am very passionate about. I started my period when I was in high school. My parents were divorced and at that time I split my time between my mother’s house and my father’s. When I had to have the conversation with my father about needing these sanitary products, he refused to buy them for me or provide me with them. I was lucky enough to have my mother. There are girls out there who don’t have mother figures and that is why it is so vital that sanitary products are available freely in Scotland.