Why is it still so hard for menstruators to get access to period care? In 2019 the government pledged to end period poverty in the UK by 2025. Despite promising to help bridge the gap for people who menstruate, we would argue that there has not been enough done to prioritise these issues fast enough across the country.
Our fabulous charity partner, Bloody Good Period (BGP), are spreading awareness, tools, period products and resources to help combat period poverty. Their mission is to fight for menstrual equity and provide everyone with a better, more positive way to talk about periods. There is now a greater need than ever for intervention for people who menstruate yet we are still waiting for the government to fulfil the changes they have promised.
Here We Flo is supporting BGP with their ‘#Period Penalty’ Campaign because we also believe that periods are essential. We currently donate 5% of our profits and period products not only to BGP, but also to charity partners such as The Orchid Project and The Albert Kennedy Trust. No one should ever be penalised for having a period, yet the government has allowed this issue to continue on. People should never have to choose between their food shopping or buying period products!
Period poverty is a taboo topic which doesn’t get much recognition. But yet, studies have shown that 21% of women (more than one in five) and people who menstruate in the UK are now struggling to afford period products (Action Aid, 2023). Non-profit organisations are seeing a rising demand for period care products driven by the cost of living crisis.
This growing trend of people looking to food and hygiene banks for assistance with their period care wasn’t anywhere near as prevalent before.
So what is Period Poverty?
Period Poverty is the inability to afford or have access to period products, which is worsened by a lack of menstrual education and stigma surrounding menstruation (BGP, 2022).
Who does Period Poverty affect?
To put it simply, it affects women, young girls and people who menstruate. However, some may assume that this issue is solely faced by the developing world, and not right here on our doorstep (yes, the UK)!
With young girls struggling to afford essential period care products, the issue continues to reinforce class divide within society. Women and menstruators are left to experiment with harmful alternatives or will end up missing out on school when their period is due (and those days add up over time). It also affects women and menstruators in the workplace, as 89% of people suffer from stress or anxiety about having their period at work (Bloody Good Period). This all stems from a lack of menstrual education and financial aid, both of which should be implemented by the government.
What exactly is our government doing about it?
The penalty we pay for having a period affects our health, finances, education and work. There have been adjustments to legislation, healthcare (providing free period products to NHS hospital patients) and education but this slow progress is nowhere near enough.
It sure felt like a win when the tampon tax was abolished back in 2021. This recognized that period products are indeed essential items (phew) - apart from period pants but that's for another rant! The trouble now is that, with the cost of living crisis, prices have surged right back up again and large corporations are pocketing the profits.
According to The Grocer (2022), major retailers were seeing a significant increase in price for own-label period products which had risen up to 57%. This makes it incredibly difficult to say that there has been steady progress, despite legislation change often being recognised as a key indicator of success. If people cannot rely on having access to affordable period care in their local supermarkets, then food and hygiene banks will struggle with demand.
If we take a look at the government’s ‘Period Product Scheme’, this may shine some more light on the topic. This scheme provides schools and colleges with access to period products to assist pupils when necessary.
However, this isn’t being enforced as mandatory. It misses the opportunity to be truly impactful, as it is then left up to the schools to decide whether they want to take part in the scheme and will also differ based on location. For example, it was rumoured that one school had only received £15 for period products to last the entire year. This then leads to teachers having to pay for students out of their own pockets, which defeats the purpose of the scheme in the first place!
At the moment, the scheme has only been extended to run until 2024 - which seems to us like a short term fix. So, will students suddenly stop needing period care after next year? We think not! The government needs to do a lot more than this for us to see true progress, as currently, we think it’s pretty lazy.
Is this enough?
People who menstruate are here to stay, so we are demanding that we are heard and seen! Unfortunately, the government has not done anywhere near enough to completely tackle period poverty and it seems they have taken a light approach to it.
BGP’s #Period Penalty highlights the increasing need for better healthcare, education and general access to period products. Despite community work being one of the many amazing ways to tackle issues of inequality in society, the responsibility should not fall solely on charities such as BGP and the community to pick up the government’s slack.
What we are demanding is for more effective plans to be put in place, sooner than later! You can help by signing up to BGP’s #Period Penalty campaign newsletter. There is only so much we can do on our end, so the government needs to revise their current strategy on tackling period poverty.