All hail Scottish Labour MP Danielle Rowley who, when confronted with a room full of male peers, spoke openly and honestly about the reality of being on your period.
Period poverty is a worldwide problem faced by women and girls on a daily basis as they struggle to pay for sanitary products – even here in the UK.
And, while politicians are slowly beginning to address the ridiculous “luxury” tax that currently still exists on sanitary products, a Scottish Labour MP has taken a revolutionary (and downright empowering route) to ensure the issue remains in the limelight.
Danielle Rowley, who represents Midlothian, was late for the women and equalities debate in the House of Commons yesterday. When she arrived, Rowley apologised for her tardiness – and, stood before her fellow MPs (many of which are older men) to deliver a well-humored but earnest speech expressing not only her reason for being late, but what that reason has meant for her financially in the last week alone.
“I would like to announce to you today and to the house, and perhaps you will excuse me for my lateness, that today I am on my period,” Rowley started.
She continued to break down what the implications of this have been, not just for her, but for most women, explaining: “And it’s cost me this week already £25. You know, the average cost of a period in the UK over a year is £500. Many women can’t afford this.”
Finally, Rowley dropped the metaphorical mic, ending with a hard to ignore question: “What is the minister doing to address period poverty?”
Rowley’s bold move has been well received by her peers and the Twitter community, with MPs and followers tweeting their support on tackling this problem and praising her for making a declaration that is “perhaps the first of its kind.”
Currently the UK is lagging behind the Scottish government, which already gives free sanitary products to women on low incomes after backing a pilot scheme last August to try and erode period poverty.
The government has promised to abolish the tampon tax when we leave the EU, but some MPs have challenged how much attention this issue is really being given.
The Guardian reports that the shadow women and equalities minister, Carolyn Harris, recently said: “Why is the UK government failing to provide support to tackle this growing problem, and leaving it to charities and individual groups like Beauty Bank[s], a cosmetics equivalent of food banks, to fill the gap?”
Considering how many of us feel compelled to hide a tampon up our sleeve on the way to the toilet at work for fear of, god forbid, co-workers knowing we’re on our period, Rowley’s announcement is a brave move that we think should be celebrated and imitated in opening up this conversation, and removing the taboo around periods.