Young Liberal Jessica Jeffries has added her voice to the campaign to end period poverty, calling on Cheltenham's MP Alex Chalk to take action.
You can read Jessica's full letter and add your name to the campaign below.
Dear Mr Chalk,
I hope you and your family are safe and well during these troubling times. My name is Jessica Jeffries, I’m 16 years old and I am writing to you today to discuss the topic of period poverty.
Recently, the Scottish government passed a legislation that calls for free and universal access to period products; they are the first nation to pass such policies. I believe we should follow suit to help bring an end to period poverty in the UK, which in turn will help the fight globally.
Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, safe and hygienic spaces in which to use them, and the shame and stigma that surrounds menstruation. A survey run by Plan International UK in 2017 found that 1 in 10 women have been unable to afford sanitary products, and 1 in 7 have struggled to afford them. These statistics are despicable considering the world we live in today. To add on to this, 1 in 7 girls participating in this survey admitted they did not know what was happening when they first started their period and 26% reported they didn’t know what to do when they started their period. These figures show that there is a severe lack of education when it comes to menstruation.
The negative impact of period poverty can affect women in many different ways. Physically, there is a high risk of infection due to the repeated use of old sanitary products, and the use of dirty rags/pieces of cloth which many have to use as an alternative. Psychologically, as a result of the stigma, many women feel embarrassment/shame when discussing menstruation and those who struggle financially will face much stress as they choose between feeding themselves and their family or buying period products. Plan International found that 49% of the women in their survey had admitted to missing an entire day from school as a consequence of their period; this can impact them intellectually as well as socially.
It is of my understanding that at the beginning of 2020 the government started a scheme that provides free period products in schools and colleges across the UK, and whilst I recognise this is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done! As period products became available in schools, I wrote a letter to my head teacher, Mr Gilpin, asking for these products to be placed in the girl’s toilet rather than being available through student support services. And as an ex Pittville student I am proud to say that these free products are stored in the girl’s toilet so they are easily accessible for all students. It was when I was writing this letter that I discovered what period poverty was and I am appalled that not much more has been done since by the UK government.
Whilst I can appreciate that during this time the government’s focus has been elsewhere due to Covid-19, I would like to bring to your attention that for many women across the UK, Coronavirus has worsened their situation and charities that have been providing sanitary products have seen an increase of demand. The charity, Bloody Good Period (which supplies free period products to those who can’t afford them), has supplied 53,000 products since the start of March, which is close to 6 times the amount they were supplying before.
In May, Plan International UK conducted another survey where they discussed the impact of lockdown on the access of sanitary products. 3 in 10 girls struggled to afford or access sanitary wear during lockdown and over half had to use alternatives such as toilet paper – which has also been a struggle due to the lack of toilet paper during the first national lockdown. During these times many did not no where they could access free period products as they previously got them form school. As well as this, the stigma lead many to feeling too embarrassed to ask where they could find some if there weren’t any on the supermarket shelfs. This is why I find myself writing to you in hopes that these figures can be changed.
I would like you to take the Scottish governments lead in making period products universally free and accessible to all women across the UK. This would clearly need your governments direction in terms of policy and funding.
I would be grateful if you could outline the steps you intent to take in addressing the concerns I have raised, and I look forward to receiving your response.
Add your name to the campaign here.