Period poverty causes girls to miss school and risk their health

Along with the embarrassment associated with periods, scores of girls from low-income families are missing out on vital education whilst they’re menstruating as well as risking infections and health problems.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Period poverty causes girls to miss school and risk their health - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

1 in 10 girls in the UK can't afford sanitary wear.

Think about that for a second. In Europe's second wealthiest country, many girls and women are unable to buy sanitary products.

Without them, they are either forced to improvise with tissues or toilet paper, or else go completely without. But some makeshift products can lead to infections and hygiene issues, experts told me in interviews for the article below.

Once thought to just be an issue affecting women and girls in developing countries, notably Uganda and Kenya, where there are outreach programmes to help them, period poverty clearly has no borders.

Charities, events and projects are popping up all over the UK to help these girls, and major political parties have pledged to end period poverty.

But a group of girls in a south London high school is trying to change things themselves -- they've launched a support network for girls who might be at risk of period poverty and the stigma that comes with it.

The stigma is hindering progress. “Across the country, girls have been telling us that there’s this sort of stigma or taboo surrounding periods where they’re expected to be discrete,” Peymana Assad, from children's charity Plan International UK, told me.  There is “Also this idea that it’s not clean or it needs to be hidden away so people don’t need to know about it, and they don’t have those conversations with male members of their family or male friends.”

Period poverty is also thought to be present in the rest of Europe and in the United States.

Details from the story:

  • One in ten girls in the UK are in period poverty.
  • More than one in ten girls have been forced to come up with makeshift sanitary products.
  • It affects girls and women from low-income families, who are already struggling to pay for necessities such as food.
  • Food banks have started receiving donations of sanitary products. They are also growing in use, with up to 1.2 million people now visiting food banks in Britain.
  • Period poverty is the inability to pay regularly for the sanitary products needed when people bleed during their monthly cycle.
  • Three major political parties in the UK -- The Labour Party, The Liberal Democrats and The Green Party -- have pledged to end period poverty.
  • In Scotland in July 2017, the government started giving out free menstrual products to 1,000 girls from low-income families in Aberdeen.
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