Aunt Flo. Girl Flu. Leak week.
When it comes to that “time of the month”, women have heard it all. The condescension and disgust, and even the outright denial to discuss this in public. However, with the rising rates of tampons and pads, mainstream media is giving more coverage to menstruation. The UK is finally starting to see how women are becoming victims to period poverty; how current action is ineffective, and won’t solve it.
Period poverty is the inability to buy period products due to economic constraints. British politics are finally starting to recognise the dire link between poverty and higher rates of toxic shock syndrome and depression in females. Due to campaigns like FREE PERIODS, we are starting to see that pads are not a luxury, but a necessity for the future of young women. Without pads or tampons, 1 in 10 girls are missing school, because an average of 68% of young females couldn’t pay attention in class. Being unable to afford period products, they are forced to use dirty clothing or tissue paper and thus feel too embarrassed or ashamed for something they can not control. Over 137,700 children in the UK have missed school because they preferred not to learn because they couldn’t bear to show “evidence” of periods in public.
Public opinion empathised with women and these young girls; forcing the UK government to take action. In 2018, they pledged to end period poverty by 2030. Scottish government created a £5.2 million scheme to give out free sanitary products to girls in a range of full-time education. The English treasury and Welsh government plan do the same. The NHS plan to give free sanitary products to female patients this summer. These efforts seem plentiful, and well-meaning. It’s too bad they are logistically impossible.
We do not have the money.
In the first quarter of 2018, the UK’s debt amounted to £1.78 trillion. The British government already planned to spend £35 Billion for the Trident Project. Furthermore, the NHS is currently suffering from £2.7 billion worth cuts, due to government miscalculations. Firstly, the NHS can not afford this new expenditure, especially after cutting the same amount of money as the yearly salary of 61,000 nurses. They already suffer from a decrease in surgeries and longer waiting time, due to their limited budget. If they spend money they don’t have, they will be forced to limit free pads to more urgent wards. When adding this on top of their effort to include all female patients, there is a small possibility that these products will reach women who truly need it. In the long run, especially with the rising prices of pads, The UK economy can physically not afford to distribute sanitary products, due to their divided attention on national safety and Brexit harming our economy. It is causing our population to increase falling under the poverty line, and without attacking the root of the problem, they will only be forced to spend more and this benefit will eventually collapse. To truly eliminate period poverty, we need to battle against the main cause.
To improve period poverty immediately, we need to make menstrual products cheaper. In a normal female lifetime, I would have to spend around £18,000 on period products. That is a staggering £13 every month, which as a future university student, will be hard to accommodate. Combine this price with the rising cost of food, medication and transport.
It’s no wonder that 40% of UK girls can only afford to use toilet rolls to deal with their period.
If the government keeps focusing on the distribution of sanitary products and not their costs, any solution they make will collapse long term. If we do not stop the rising cost of pads and tampons, more girls could die from infection and keep missing school. Not to mention, that the further strain and limitation of mental health services, from the limitation of their education keeping them in poverty, will only increase the rates of depression.
To truly solve this issue, we need to change our mindsets. We need to acknowledge that period products are not a luxury, but a necessity.
We need to step up and create legislative action to limit the price of period products.
BY NATASHA STEWART