Life

4 things I’ve learned fighting to end period poverty

Periods don’t stop in a pandemic and for those who would typically struggle to afford menstrual products the crisis we’re in is only making this worse for them. In partnership with The Body Shop’s Period Product Donation initiative that supports Bloody Good Period, we spoke to the charity’s founder and CEO Gabby Edlin about the most important lessons she’s learned fighting for period equality and what we can do now to help those being affected…

“When I started Bloody Good Period, period poverty wasn’t a phrase that was used; it wasn’t coined until later, so I have never really seen our work as combatting period poverty, rather I see it as creating period equality.

I started the charity after volunteering at a drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees in North London where I noticed immediately that they were not providing period supplies, even though most of the attendees were women.

I was horrified (but not surprised) to learn that women and people who menstruate were not offered extra funds for this essential item, given that asylum seekers receive just £37.75 per week to live on, nor were any centres able to sustainably supply period products to their clients nor had many realised it was an essential product.

We are able to receive condoms for free medical settings, and toilet paper is freely accessible in all public areas. Why is it not the same for an arguably more essential item?

It might seem niche to some people (reminder; it’s not, periods have been around forever), but we’re able to talk more about the issue now because of the work activists have done to get it on the public radar.

I have been pleasantly surprised with how much people really care about this topic though and how onboard they continue to be.

And it’s a part of a much bigger conversation about gender equality, and the rights we afford to some and not others to live a healthy and dignified life.

This is what I’ve learned on the journey to help those who need it…”

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“There are very few stats about the impact of period poverty. Plan UK has produced some stats that tell us 3 in 10 girls have struggled to afford products during lockdown (1 in 10 usually), but I suspect it’s even worse figures for adult women and people who menstruate, as mothers of course put their children’s needs first.

And while happily, period products are now freely available to young people in education, the same can’t be said for adults.

We have spoken to women who have had to use ripped up clothing, wads of tissue or even a used baby’s nappy to stem their flow.

No one should be forced to live like this and as this pandemic hits the already vulnerable the hardest, it’s only set to affect more people.”

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“I think it can be forgotten that ‘period poverty’ doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

It’s a symptom of wider poverty - there is an unprecedented amount of the UK population using foodbanks, and it figures that if you can’t afford food then you definitely can’t afford period products.

It’s not always about cash either. Not having access to products can take the form of abuse within a relationship, with the withholding of certain items or the cash to buy them.

It can also be as simple as the shame of menstruation being so pervasive that a young person is too embarrassed to ask for the products and information they need.”

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“One of the biggest blockers in achieving period equality or diminishing period poverty has been how unresponsive the big pad/tampon product brands have really been to the issue. 

They have chosen to focus their corporate social responsibility efforts on marketing their own products instead to make it seem like they care.

If they really wanted to help, this issue would be over by now.”

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“It’s supporting small organisations like Bloody Good Period, and other grassroots organisations like food banks and women’s centres that you can have the biggest impact.

When you have small organisations focusing on the people they work with, that’s when you know you’re really going to make a difference to someone.”

The Body Shop has teamed up with Bloody Good Period to ensure that those who can’t afford period products have access to them throughout this pandemic and beyond. 

In addition to that, donations from The Body Shop and their customers have resulted in 10,000 packs from The Body Shop at Home being donated so far to local charities and organisations including homeless, women’s refuges, asylum seekers and refugees. The Body Shop has also funded three Bloody Good Period education programmes – providing free comprehensive education about female sexual and reproductive health to asylum seekers, and people that cannot normally access it. 

Support the partnership and those who need access to basic period essentials below.