Millions of children around the world are denied an education. In the UK, every child has the right to go to school but a growing number of them face missing school every month for the simple reason that they can’t afford menstrual products.
As a schoolgirl myself, I know we must change this. Period Poverty must go. That's why we are calling on the Government to provide free menstrual products to all children on free school meals.
Back in March 2017, UK charity Freedom4Girls, which provides menstrual products to women and girls in Kenya, was approached for donations by a school in Leeds, which had become increasingly concerned about the number of girls recurrently absent from school.
Children as young as 11 suffer the shame of using socks, or taping tissue to underwear. It is not only unacceptable, but can seriously jeopardise their health. Tina Leslie, founder of Freedom4Girls, stated, ‘Nobody thinks it’s happening here, but it is happening here.’
Period poverty has always existed and, up until recently, nothing has been done to tackle the issue head-on. Period taboo meant these children don’t feel comfortable to speak freely and openly about their struggles. It means we may never know the full extent of this problem. We need to escort period shame out of the door and mobilise the government so that children from the lowest income backgrounds are not marginalised. No child should be held back because they bleed.
Yes, ideally, we would strive to convince the Government to provide free menstrual products to ALL children in the UK. This is the first step towards that.
What is encouraging is that, earlier this year, for the first time in history, the House of Lords debated menstrual product provision - a bold and momentous step towards eradicating Period Poverty forever.
And Baroness Burt of Solihull, incredibly, went one step further saying: ‘Could we not give sanitary towels to girls who qualify for free school meals? We already know who they are, and the cost of setting up the system would, I am sure, be very small. It would mean that all girls in school could confidently attend school all month round without having to worry about the embarrassment of their period letting them down.’
The conversation has continued. 13 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion ‘Free Provision of Sanitary Products for Girls from Low-Income Families’ proposed by MP Greg Mulholland. Real change doesn’t seem so far away.
But we need to take advantage of this momentum and campaign the Government to ensure that action is taken so children on free school meals are given free menstrual provision. Soon.