The issue of period poverty is at the heart and origins of Gift Wellness so naturally we were elated when we first heard that that the British government was beginning to take some positive steps towards eradicating the problem. In his Spring statement in March, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the government will be providing funding for free sanitary products in all English secondary schools and colleges in 2020. Naturally, along with all period poverty campaigners, we welcomed it as a huge step forward.
However, on reflection and research into how the provision of sanitary products to schools and colleges would actually work, it began to look more like yet another charm offensive that would have very little impact in reality.
It was around the same time as the Chancellor's announcement that our new charity, The Gift Wellness Foundation was launched at an amazing International Women's Day event in Derby called the Period Poverty Forum. The mix of attendees included school girls, teachers, NHS, social and charity workers and all the different forms of period poverty were discussed and potential solutions were explored.
When we talked about the government initiative to provide sanitary products to schools, the point was made that the 'free' sanitary products would have to come out existing school budgets, which would not be easy, given that schools were already struggling financially. Another question was raised about why the policy makers were only addressing the lack of sanitary products for those who can't afford them, as that was just one of the forms of period poverty. Teachers and pupils shared their experiences of how many girls started secondary school unaware of what happened during puberty, so there was a desperate need for education at a younger age on menstruation. 15 year old Abigail described how a girl she knew was humiliated and bullied after she bled through her clothes. We agreed that action needed to be taken by the government through the education system, to normalise the language and conversation around periods in the classroom as well as in the home.
Away from the media headlines and political back patting, there is clearly still a long way to go before girls can enjoy the same opportunities at school as boys. These and many other issues around period poverty are explored on our Gift Wellness Foundation Period Poverty website where you can get involved in supporting our work and donate to the charity.