Period poverty has been at the centre of some significant political discussions in the past couple of years, largely in thanks to the likes of Amika George's #FreePeriods campaign. In a progressive new step (and after years of grass roots campaigning), the government has now announced they will introduce a new scheme which enables state schools and colleges to order free sanitary products for their students. The natural next question following this news is this: how will the free sanitary products in schools help end period poverty in this country?
Well, the answer is it will unequivocally help, particularly in ensuring young girls feel able to attend school and learn properly, without the distractions of period worry. Period poverty is something that affects a huge number of girls in this country, with a recent poll revealing that 15% of girls have struggled to afford menstrual products, with 12% admitting to improvising due to affordability issues. This has lead to absences in schools due to young women feeling they have to miss school when on their period, rather than face the shame and anxiety attached to attending without access to sanitary products.
For this reason, this new step is massive, and cannot be understated. Having access to tampons, pads and menstrual cups in primary and secondary schools (providing the school opts in to this new scheme) will be life-changing for those suffering with period poverty. The scheme has been set up based on the calculation that 35% of students will use them, which suggests it will aid a significant proportion of young women in schools.
Campaigners who have worked for years to make this happen agree this is a major step in the right direction. Amika George, who founded #FreePeriods, said in a statement given to the Evening Standard: "We have been waiting for this day for a long time! As a grassroots, student-led movement, Free Periods has been fighting for every single child in this country to be able to go to school without worrying about their next pad or tampon."
"Free products in schools will ensure that every child can learn and be their very best, without periods holding them back," she continued.
Lynda Erroi, head of year seven at Southam College in Warwickshire, who helps students who cannot afford sanitary products added: "This will reduce the stress for any student who is trying hard to attend school when period products are an issue in their life."
"Staff will also feel more empowered that they are able to request supplies and support a child's needs."
In short, this is a huge win for young women struggling to have access to sanitary products, and the first step in ending period poverty in the UK.