The journey of the end period poverty campaign will be something I will treasure my whole life. The progress that has been made, both large and small, has had such a positive impact on the lives of so many individuals within not just Scotland, but worldwide.
In 2018, I developed a strong passion and desire to educate myself on the period poverty campaign when my teacher approached me. I learnt that large numbers of young people, not only in my local authority but across the whole of Scotland were missing out on school due to their period. I was so shocked, we HAD to create some form of change. Within my school, Kilmarnock Academy, we wanted to provide free sanitary products for all who may need them.
The objective, especially at a time where periods were looked down upon and were an embarrassing topic to discuss, was to keep these products in drawstring bags. These bags would hang on the back of each toilet door and be filled weekly. This allowed pupils to have privacy and feel no shame in needing to use sanitary products. Over my summer holidays I sewed 21 large drawstrings bags, all of which were patterned and brightly coloured. We launched the program when school returned, and it was a big hit! Products were not only getting used continuously, but many young girls were collecting products to take home to family members who required it. Pupils felt able to discuss their periods, it started to become normalized.
New ideas struck me, I decided to make 150 bags for the young girls joining in S1. This allowed for the excitement of choosing a drawstring bag while also educating them on a subject that they may have shied away from before. They were given opportunities to fill their bags whenever they needed to and could stay stocked up at home for other family members. This project was repeated for the next few years, and always had great success and popularity among the young people of my school.
This led to my work starting to be recognised by powerful individuals, including Aileen Campbell, a Cabinet Minister who did an extortionate amount of work to help Monica Lennon in passing the Free Provision of Period Products Act in November 2020. She was a true role model for me and getting invited to meet her in Scottish Parliament was extremely exciting!
With Monica Lennon attending a period dignity event online, that I was able to join, helped spark true inspiration for a topic so many people have began to pay attention to. One of the topics spoken about, that was agreed by Monica Lennon and Alison Evans, was the use of slang words to describe our periods. This created a large stigma, that we are slowly starting to break down in our communities and Scotland as a whole. Alison Evans spoke about how talking about periods publicly was always seen as wrong or “disgusting”. As our country has grown, this is not the case anymore.
My hard work did not go unnoticed, and I am forever grateful for the recognition and awards I received. From winning the Young Enterprise Award in December 2018, to winning the Young Scot Health and Wellbeing Award in 2020, I look back on this whole campaign and the growth it has had with such pride.
I have recently been given the opportunity to enlighten others about my work, and I still speak both locally and nationally (as an MSYP representing Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) for topics affecting young people!
I have recently been approached by the National Museum for Scotland in Edinburgh for my bags to be included in an exhibition within the museum, something that 13-year-old Paige could only have dreamed of happening! The journey does not stop here, and I hope to continue making differences for those around me and future generations!
Paige Holland was a finalist for the Sunday Mail Young Scot Awards in 2020 who has worked to make period products accessible to everyone in her school.