Putting a stop to period poverty

28 May 2021

 

Brent Council has committed itself to reducing period poverty in the borough by ensuring women who do not have enough money to access the sanitary products they need are helped to overcome this inhibiting problem.

Period poverty is an issue that affects millions of women and girls who struggle to afford or access safe menstrual protection. The economic, social and environmental impacts of period poverty are huge, with many of those affected restricted from equal education, job, leisure and other opportunities, simply due to their periods and restricted ability to manage them.

At the end of last year, Scotland became the first country to make period products free for everyone at the point of need. A Bill was passed that meant all local authorities legally now have to provide free period products to people who need them.

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Cabinet Member for Housing and Welfare Reform, said, “Law or no law, this is an issue we are determined to address here in Brent. There are resources out there that are available to girls and women in need and it’s important that we help every one of them access support.

“Period poverty affects a woman’s ability to manage a most intimate and regular occurrence – one many find it difficult to talk about. We need to ensure people have a socially acceptable standard of living and can participate fully in society.”

In January 2020, the Government launched a scheme to give out free period products in schools. State schools and colleges in England can order free period products for students as part of a Government scheme to tackle period poverty.

The scheme aims to help prevent children missing school if they don't have access to products at home. Schools are able to choose from a range of items using an online system, but can also place orders via email or over the phone.

“We’ve worked really hard to make our schools aware of this scheme and will continue to do so,” explained Cllr Southwood. “Currently over half of the schools in Brent that are eligible have ordered free period products for students, which is the 8th highest in London with an average spend of £299 per school.”

The scheme has remained in operation during the pandemic, with schools and colleges still able to order a range of period products through the online portal and distribute them to students, whether they are learning from home or at school or college.

Foodbanks such as the Trussell Trust also provide sanitary products where available, but are heavily reliant on donations. In addition there are three main charities that focus on tackling period poverty – Freedom4Girls, Bloody Good Period and The Hygiene Bank. Between them they can provide products – either through collection or delivery – or by working with partner organisations such as Foodbanks, community response teams, shelters, etc.

“My message to any girls or women out there experiencing period poverty is to ask for support: Help is out there,” said Cllr Southwood. “Speak to your schools, access the support, contact the charities, and let’s not allow ourselves to be held back from achieving all the things we are capable of.