That time of the month isn’t a bag of laughs for anyone. But for some women and girls, the situation is far bleaker, with unimaginable consequences…
If you’ve heard of period poverty, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was something that happened solely overseas.
We’ve seen harrowing examples of poor menstrual hygiene in places such as India, Kenya and Cambodia, where girls and women struggle to cope with their menstrual cycles – often resorting to unhygienic and uncomfortable methods just to go about their daily lives.
But, shockingly, it’s also an issue here in the UK. These are the numbers you need to know.
The cost of periods
More than 137,700 UK girls have missed school in the last year because they can’t afford sanitary protection.
And 1 in 10 parents admit they’ve been forced to send their daughter to school without pads or tampons – knowing she needed them– while the vast majority of girls (91%) have been asked by a friend for a pad or tampon, because she couldn’t afford to buy her own.
Worryingly, almost half of staff at schools agree it’s a common problem, saying they know girls studying at their school who are are unable to afford sanitary products.
The emotional impact
As well as being hugely problematic for obvious (and practical) reasons, research from Always shows that the implications can be far-reaching.
For example, 6 in 10 of women who had gone without sanitary products were bullied at school. Of them, 64% admitted they now lack confidence as a result, with 39% revealing they also suffer from anxiety or depression.
A shocking 39% revealed those who suffered from period poverty don’t have many friends now, finding it difficult to socialise as a result.
When asked, over half of women who have experienced period poverty believe it has had a direct effect on their success, confidence and happiness as an adult.
But that’s not all.
The stats also show that those impacted by period poverty are more likely to struggle to pay their bills in the future and lack the money to socialise or treat themselves.
Period poverty can also affect women’s future relationships, with those who have suffered most commonly rating their love life as 1 out of 10 (women who had not experienced period poverty typically answered 8).
How you can help
Solving a problem on such a large scale means there’s no easy fix, but tackling the issue starts with ending the stigma – and talking openly about it.
“The more awareness we can raise about this issue, the more we can help to remove the shame girls feel in talking about it,” says Always Ambassador, Alesha Dixon.
“Puberty is a hard enough time to navigate without feeling embarrassed about not being able to afford essential sanitary products, and no girl today should experience that.”
In fact, you may even have made a difference without knowing. Always has donated more than 14 million pads to date as part of their #EndPeriodPoverty campaign. For every purchase of a pack of pads, Always has donated an additional pad.
Another easy way to help out is to ready your thumbs on International Day of the Girl (Thursday 11 October). Superdrug will post a themed tweet from their Twitter account – for every retweet, Always will donate a sanitary pad. Time to set yourself a reminder.
Then there are simple things you can do like donating to charities such as The Red Box Project, who set up packages of period supplies and deliver them to schools where girls are likely in need.
For more information, visit Always to find out how you can lend your support.