World Menstrual Hygiene Day: Combatting period poverty in a pandemic

Period poverty doesn’t stop in a pandemic, and the coronavirus is only making this crisis worse.

As today is World Menstrual Hygiene Day, it is important to highlight the issues that girls and women alike across the globe have been facing, especially now. There have been increasing struggles when trying to access the feminine hygiene products that they so desperately need and deserve. The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to this problem, with price inflations on sanitary products and panic buying making obtaining these necessities an even greater task.

Earlier on in the year, it was declared that from January 2021, the tampon tax would be abolished and removed from the price of sanitary products in the UK. This was an incredible milestone in fighting period poverty, and a big step in improving these issues for many thousands of young girls and women across England.

Unfortunately, since the national lockdown that was enforced on Monday 23 March, issues obtaining period products have skyrocketed once more. But periods don’t stop in a pandemic. According to a new survey conducted by Plan International UK, a shocking 3 in 10 girls have struggled to afford or access sanitary wear during lockdown. Almost a third of girls aged 14-21 have experienced these issues and over half (54%) have even used toilet paper as an alternative method.

“A shocking 3 in 10 girls have struggled to afford sanitary wear during lockdown and more than 50% have had to use toilet paper as an alternative method”.

42 per cent of those who participated in the survey said they also did not try to access any free products from charities as they were unsure on where they could could go to access these services. Another 30 per cent felt too embarrassed to receive the free period essentials.

One charity trying to make a difference for girls around the world is Bloody Good Period. The foundation seeks to eradicate the stigma and shame that surrounds female menstruation, by encouraging the conversation around periods. Their mantra explains that ‘no one should feel ashamed of something that is completely, biologically natural’. BGD’s main mission is to give period products to those in need who can’t afford them, as well as providing menstrual education to those who are less likely to access it.

If you are in a position to help those in need, an effective way to aid in the process is to donate either money or products to charities who are able to distribute the products to the right people. You can do this here.

Bloody Good Period have put in place a trust-based scheme called ‘Take What You Need’ – or TWYN for short. The charity has a large supply of period products at their Alexandra Palace storage facility, and have opened this up to anyone who needs them: particularly in drop-in centres, refuges, homeless shelters and food banks. They are also supplying frontline NHS workers who are also struggling to access their menstrual essentials. They have even been posting products to individuals, especially those self-isolating with symptoms.

Credit: Freepik

Of course, the usual fundraising techniques for the charity have had to be adapted to the current guidelines. But there are still many ways to raise money, even from the comfort of your own home. For example, hosting a virtual fundraising brunch on Zoom or doing a solo sponsored walk/run.

Signing petitions is another effective way to make a difference. The #EndTamponTax petition received 318,498 signatures, resulting in abolishment of the tampon tax as of next year. Your digital signature could change a lot for the lives of many, raising awareness is what gets the ball rolling and education to those who may not have heard about the issue.

The coronavirus pandemic is currently effecting all of us in different ways, but girls and women shouldn’t have to choose between eating a good meal, buying nappies for their children or sanitary products. Every woman deserves dignity and access to essential hygiene products.

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