(Originally published on The Debrief)
Free sanitary items could be given out to low income girls in the near future, thanks to Education Secretary Justine Greening pushing for the action in parliament yesterday.
The motion would give girls who currently receive or qualify for free school meals free sanitary products too.
We all read last week about charity Freedom4Girls supplying students in Leeds, rather than Kenya, with tampons and pads. The realisation that there are many girls in Britain who are too poor to afford sanitary products came as a shock to the nation, and, thankfully, it’s looking like we’re going to do something about it.
One girl interviewed by the BBC said: ‘I wrapped a sock around my underwear just to stop the bleeding, because I didn’t want to get shouted at. I once sellotaped tissue to my underwear. I didn’t know what else to do.’
It may come as a surprise to us – but it shouldn’t. There are hundreds of families in the UK who live below the poverty line. If they can’t afford enough food, how are they supposed to pay for tampons?
The student continued, ‘I didn’t get any money because my mum was a single parent and she had five mouths to feed, so there wasn’t much leftover money in the pot to be giving to us.’
The charity said it had begun to operate in Yorkshire, after one school contacted them after noticing girls’ attendance levels were dropping. They heard that schoolgirls were missing lessons because they were too embarrassed by the prospect of bleeding on their uniforms. A petition has since been started, which calls for all schools to provide free tampons. As of today, it has received 15,000 signatures.
Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West, said in the House of Commons yesterday: ‘It’s deeply shocking in the 21st century that girls are not going to school because they can’t afford sanitary products.’
However, Freedom4Girls said they weren’t surprised by the findings. Tina Leslie, a public health worker for the charity, said: ‘We had an idea that there was something happening in schools. We need to give these girls dignity back.’
The motion has also been bought to attention in Scotland, and Monica Lennon, a Scottish Labour MSP, is launching a member’s bill in Holyrood to help girls and women in a similar position. She hopes to also introduce an anonymous service that would be able to provide tampons to anyone in need. She said to The Herald:‘Whereas other items such as toilet paper, hand wash and even paper towels can be found in most public bathrooms for free, no such provision exists when it comes to sanitary products – and that should change… No one should face a financial burden to look after their health.’
Greening, in parliament, said she was going to look ‘carefully’ at the matter.