(Photo: Yoni Care via Instagram)
British Girls In Poverty Are Skipping School Due To Lack Of Tampons
Girls missing school because of their periods is not a rare problem. In parts of the developing world, that is – in rural Uganda girls miss around eight days of school each term due to period stigma and a lack of resources; in Nepal, approximately 30% of girls miss school during their periods; one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle, with some dropping out altogether once they begin menstruating.
It may come as a surprise to Westerners, but girls and young women in Britain are also missing school due to lack of access to sanitary products.
Young girls in Leeds from low-income families are skipping out on school classes because they can't afford sanitary protection during their periods, according to a story in the Metro newspaper today.
Charity Freedom4Girls, which traditionally sends sanitary items to schoolgirls in Africa, was contacted by teachers in Leeds, after they found some of their female students who bunk off every month were doing so because they didn't have access to period products.
The worrying story shows that it's not only girls in parts of Asia and Africa that are missing out on vital education because of physicality. Girls in Britain are too.
As Tina Leslie, project co-ordinator for Freedom4Girls, says, "What we've heard about is the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure." She's right – this story highlights a much bigger problem when it comes to periods.
Female asylum seekers and others who simply cannot afford it are also often left without tampons, pads or other period products. Many women who are living in poverty simply can't fork out the monthly cost of bleeding. Depending on how heavy the flow, women can spend up to £13 on tampons, pads or other products per period.
But how can we expect female hygiene products to be easily accessible (or free of charge) when women bleeding is still widely unmentionable.
The thing is, on top of the tampon price and the 5% tampon tax added on top of that, the stigma surrounding periods is still huge. In supermarkets the period product aisle is still called "monthly care" and discussing periods in public is met with dismay and disgust from passersby.
Even how this news story has been addressed in the press proves my point. Girls skipping school because they don't have access to tampons or pads should be front page news, not a small paragraph hidden in between pages. What's more: the girls missing school are branded "truants" in the headline, a somewhat misleading, negative term that shouldn't be assigned to unfortunate kids who don't have the basic items needed to get by, but intentional absences from education with no excuse.
How can women and girls have equal opportunities when one of their natural biological processes is – still – treated like a dirty secret?
This discussion is so obvious and boring – I can't quite believe we're still struggling to improve menstruation awareness and equip all females with access to sanitary products. Major eye-roll for society from me right now.
By Lydia Morrish, published on 13/03/2017