Scotland has made history by becoming the first country in the world to make period products free for all. So what’s next in the fight against period poverty?

Harriet, from Uganda, fights period poverty by making reusable sanitary pads with support from ActionAid. Karin Schermbrucker/ActionAid
Harriet, from Uganda, fights period poverty by making reusable sanitary pads with support from ActionAid. Karin Schermbrucker/ActionAid

The news that Scotland will now make period products available for free is incredibly welcome for all who campaign against period poverty.  

Thanks to the unanimous approval of the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, there is now a legal duty on local authorities in Scotland to ensure products like tampons and pads are available to anyone who needs them.1 

This is a great step forward for women and girls, and all those in Scotland who need menstrual products. And it’s a testament to the hard work of all those who’ve campaigned so brilliantly on the issue.

We also welcome the fact that this news has helped to highlight the crucial issue of period poverty in Scotland - and around the world. 

Period poverty stifles opportunity 

The news from Scotland came alongside a survey of more than 2,000 people by Young Scot, which found about one in four respondents at school, college or university in Scotland had struggled to access period products.2

These statistics are deeply concerning, and speak to a problem that exists in communities all over the world. 

Because from the UK to India, Kenya to Brazil, we know that period poverty is an all-too-common problem, affecting the health, lives and livelihoods of women and girls everywhere

Whether they can’t afford period products, can’t access them, or have no safe, clean place in which to use them, those who menstruate are too often forced to manage their periods in unsafe and unsanitary ways. They can even be forced to stay home while menstruating, missing days of school or work and so putting the realisation of their rights, including education and their livelihoods, on hold.

It is wonderful that action is being taken in Scotland to redress these problems. Next, we must continue to push for action in countries all over the world, until anyone who needs them can access menstrual products - wherever they live. 

How we can tackle period poverty together

Research shows that period poverty is widespread in richer and poorer countries alike, but in Kenya, around 50% of school-age girls do not have access to sanitary products.3 In India, studies show around 12% of its 355 million menstruating women simply cannot afford the period products they need.4 

This may seem like an insurmountable problem. But at ActionAid we know that transformative and long-term change is absolutely possible - when we work together

ActionAid has carried out life-changing projects in many of the world’s poorest countries to distribute the essential products women in need in emergency situations, for example in refugee camps. We also run projects that help women and girls manage their periods in sustainable, affordable ways - for example by training girls in schools to make their own reusable sanitary pads

These initiatives are simple and cost-effective, but they can make an enormous difference to girls in school who, otherwise, might simply stay home and miss class for the duration of their period. 

With the right training, and proper access to period products, a girl’s entire life can be transformed.

How you can help end period poverty

By giving a regular gift to ActionAid, you can help us to be there for women and girls in the long-term. A gift of £3 a month can help provide hygiene kits for women in disasters or emergencies, containing essentials like sanitary pads, clean underwear and soap.

And if you give a gift of £7 a month, you can help us to run workshops that teach girls how to make reusable pads, which are affordable, sustainable and environmentally-friendly. 

So this Christmas, please sign up to help us end period poverty around the world. Your gift can make an enormous difference to the lives of women and girls. Thank you. 

Donate to help end period poverty

  • 1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-51629880
  • 2. https://youngscot.net/access-to-sanitary-products
  • 3. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000226792
  • 4. http://www.cehat.org/go/uploads/Hhr/migrants.pdf

Footnotes