I remember fighting with my Nana when I first got my period. Not just because I was hormonal as f*ck, but because she kept insisting that I use pads when I was determined to try tampons!
Despite our monthly bickering, I was lucky. Bloody lucky. I was young, but still fortunate enough to have a choice. A positive choice about what I wanted near my body when my cramp-inducing, mood-trapezing flow arrived. Twenty-five years on, many people who menstruate (including cis women, trans men and non-binary people) are not afforded such a choice.
The issues they face are not as trivial as squabbling over what type of sanitary products they use though. The fact is, they don’t actually have a choice, because due to financial reasons they can’t afford to buy these basic essential items. New research released today states that more than 137,700 pupils in the UK missed school last year during their ‘time of the month’, in short because they couldn’t afford any sanitary protection. On average, these teens missed five days of school a year – it’s hard to get your head around these shocking statistics.
In Scotland, 1 in 5 are resorting to using all manner of substitutes, like rags, newspapers, socks, toilet paper or nothing at all. This rises to a 1 in 4 in the UK, with people forced to resort to using cotton wool or doubling up on underwear. This is a shameful, ugly truth. It’s humiliating, and what’s more can damage their health.
“Research identified that almost 10% of those surveyed were relying on food banks or friends to support them.”
Yet we’re finding that menstruation remains a taboo topic, and period poverty is still perceived as a pretty unglamorous subject. But the movement is slowly beginning to gain traction. Today, it was announced that Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon’s Bill to end period poverty has been backed by 96% of respondents in a public consultation. That’s a pretty inspiring result.
Personally, I’m fortunate enough to have a tribe (my team at WIRE) who have rallied together to tackle #PeriodPoverty. We were moved to get behind the cause after reading a recent Women for Independence survey, the most comprehensive of its kind on the issue. The research identified that almost 10% of those surveyed were relying on food banks or friends to support them. Another ghastly figure was the number of people using public toilets to access free toilet roll to help with the problem. Urinary tracts, infections and thrush are not uncommon as people avoid changing their products as regularly as they should. All to save money. There’s no getting away from it; period poverty is a real and distressing reality.
So, in the run up to International Women’s Day, periods have been a big focus for us in the office. Not only when we talked about #PressforProgress and our topics for #Next100Years, but Auntie Flo has been the driving force behind the launch of the Bloody Big Brunch – the first event in the UK where the cost of a Bloody Mary is a box of tampons/ towels. Periods are on the menu for discussion, and we’re hoping to get the conversation flowing at our launch event in Glasgow this Saturday 10th March!
Partnering with The Trussell Trust, we’ll be donating everything to families in need. For more details you can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and don’t forget to use the hashtag #BloodyBigBrunch!
“We’ll be touring the rest of the UK in 2018, popping up in cities nationwide at ‘that time of the month’.”
And don’t worry if you can’t come to our inaugural event in Glasgow, as we’re urging people to host their own Bloody Big Brunches for friends and asking them all to donate here.
As for WIRE, we’ve restructured our agency this year to make sure that everyone has 10% of their time set aside to work on campaigns for social change that are close to our hearts. This is just the first initiative — and from idea to activation, we’ve had less than 20 days to make this happen. Our team, made up of men and women, have worked full-on and have been passionate and energetic about making it a success.
We won’t stop here though. Our ambition is to eradicate period poverty, and I know that’s a bold aim. We’ll be touring the rest of the UK in 2018, popping up in cities nationwide at ‘that time of the month’ – in recognition of the fact that this is a monthly issue. Everyone’s welcome, so keep an eye out as we’ll be announcing events in London, Manchester and Edinburgh very soon!