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International Women’s Day 2019

illustration of women

Today is International Women’s Day and this year we will be celebrating the theme of ‘Better the balance, the better the world’. But most importantly we will be celebrating period successes over the last year that envisions an end to period poverty. 

One of the most impactful period poverty statistics came out in March 2018 which stated that more than 137,700 girls missed school in 2017 because they couldn’t afford menstrual products. It was shocking for the entire nation to discover that we or the government was failing to address the basic needs of girls in school. Missing school means disrupting studies leading to girls falling behind in their academic achievements. Today, let’s celebrate the latest period successes.

What is Period Poverty?

Period poverty means being unable access menstrual products because of financial constraints. It’s damaging, undignified, unacceptable and problem that needs to be addressed with smart and sustainable solution."

Ruby Raut, CEO and Co-Founder of WUKA said

‘We are very pleased to hear and show our support to GEO who are  raising voice to  tackling financial fragility that affects some girls and women, period poverty.  Period poverty means being unable to access menstrual products because of financial constraints. It’s damaging, undignified, unacceptable and problematic that needs to be addressed with a smart and sustainable solution. However, across the globe women and men are working together to see period poverty end and the taboo of periods disappear. With every step forward the balance is tipping towards a better understanding for all.

“Period poverty is real and is happening all around the world including here in the UK and it needs to be addressed."

Penny Mordaunt (Minister for Women and Equalities and Secretary of State for International Development) announced on the 4th March 2019 that a new UK government campaign to break the silence and end period poverty globally by 2030 was going ahead.

The campaign will consist of funding and international aid to support current organisations helping to combat period poverty around the world. Penny wants to see more girls attending school and not missing out on their education due to having their period. This will lead to women gaining better employment and, therefore, breaking the cycle of period poverty.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Free Period Products

Free menstrual products, such as tampons and pads, will be given to patients in NHS hospitals from Summer 2019. NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, said it was “absolutely right that everyone had access to the essentials of daily life during their time in hospital and it would leave people to focus on their recovery.

This will ease the worry of having a period in hospital, especially for those who struggle to afford menstrual products.

Period. End of Sentence

 A non-profit organisation ‘The Pad Project’ made a short film about periods and, as a result, won an Oscar in February 2019. ‘The Pad Project’ visited a small village in India and bought a machine which local women could use to make pads. Through selling the menstrual product, the women were able to make money, breakdown taboos, and support their families.

Winning an Oscar brings the issue of period poverty to the forefront on a large scale. The fight against period poverty is being recognised and the achievements celebrated.

movie poster of Period end of the sentence

The Scottish government announced in January 2019 that they would ensure that £4 million is poured into a scheme offering free period products within libraries, leisure centres, and other public places. The government made this decision following the success of menstrual products being offered in schools to help reduce the number of girls missing school due to period poverty.

Period Education for All Pupils

Menstrual Health will be taught to all pupils in school from 2020. The lessons will be compulsory and will begin when children are in primary school.

Girls will be taught what’s normal and abnormal in relation to their menstrual cycle and will be given the chance to ask questions. The hope is that the taboo of periods will be reduced and that girls will have a better understanding of their bodies.

girl studying in classroom

Ending Period Poverty

Amika George founded a legal campaign in April 2017, named #freeperiods, after learning about girls either missing school whilst on their period or making their own period products from socks, tissue paper, and other items to absorb their flow.

Since then Amika has been raising awareness of menstruation and period poverty. She has led a protest to ask Theresa May to provide free menstrual products to girls who are already receiving free school meals. Amika’s protest led to the government pledging to ensure funds are given to reduce period poverty.

Amika has also lifted the taboo of periods for a lot of young girls. She receives messages from girls thanking her for talking about periods and normalising menstruation and period poverty.





word tax written with tampon design

Tampon Tax

Danielle Rowley and Paula Sherriff are amongst MP’s in the UK who are highlighting the issue of period poverty in the Houses of Parliament and campaigning for change. Danielle stood in Parliament in June 2018 and asked what was being done to tackle period poverty. She highlighted that the 5% tax should be eradicated as period products should not be seen as a luxury but a necessity.

The government has stated that the 5% luxury tax will be lifted once the UK has left the European Union. In the meantime, certain shops, including Tesco and Co-op, have absorbed the 5% tax and no longer charge their customers tax when buying period products.

Wrapping It Up

As more discussion around periods and period poverty takes place, the balance tips and the taboo surrounding menstruation reduces. Great work is being done by individuals and organisations globally to provide period products, normalise periods, educate people, and tackle period poverty.  
This International Women’s Day, let’s take a moment to celebrate the successes of these women and others who continually fight to break the stigma of periods.  

"This article is written by Rebekah Louise. She is a freelance writer who has a passion for writing about women's health and wellness."