The open letter below explains why period poverty is a universal problem that needs more support.
“We write today in the run up to World Menstrual Hygiene Day to call for an end to the global period poverty crisis. Despite significant political progress — the UK dedicating tampon tax to funding the women’s sector; the Kenya government giving free pads to schoolgirls; the Nepalese government banning the practice of exiling anyone on their period — women and girls worldwide are still being denied the right to choose how they manage their own natural bodily cycles.
“For a long time, period poverty was considered a problem for developing countries only, but the truth is it is a universal problem. Nothing could present this more starkly than the case of Freedom For Girls last year having to redirect some of its supplies for schoolgirls in Kenya to schoolgirls in the UK.
“Since then, the situation in the UK has become transparent. A survey by Always, for example, revealed that 137,700 school girls across the UK regularly miss school because they can’t afford sanitary products. And progress has been made thanks to lobbying by various UK organisations, which included a protest by 20,000 people outside Downing Street calling on Theresa May to make sanitary pads accessible to every girl receiving free school meals.
“But period stigma still prevails. The shame and embarrassment around menstruation continues to undermine the confidence of women and girls in a gross variety of ways depending on the social context. From bullying by classmates and ridicule by family members to isolation in windowless mud huts and unhygienic supplies in humanitarian disasters zones. This in turn undermines their confidence in being in public on their periods, speaking up and claiming their basic rights. All too often girls will drop out of school while on their periods, for example — the numbers in Africa are estimated to be one in 10. And those out of school are then more likely to be married young or fall pregnant, thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty and gender inequality.
“To solve the problem once and for all, we need to take a moment to consider the magnitude of the problem; provide access to products wherever possible; and address the extensive gender inequality that is the root cause of it. We must not allow women and girls to be identified primarily by their bodily functions and thus made to feel deficient or inferior. Instead we must help them gain the confidence to say #MyBodyIsMine and not let their periods hold them back.”
Ayesha Hazarika — comedian
Cariad Lloyd – actor
Charli Howard – model and body positive ambassador
Emma Thompson – actor
Gabby Edlin – founder of Bloody Good Period
Grace Campbell – co-founder of The Pink Protest
Gemma Chan — actor
Jo Brand – comedian
Jo Pavey – athlete
Lauren Layfield – TV presenter
Miriam Margolyes – actor
Poppy Jamie – entrepreneur
Sara Pascoe – comedian
Scarlett Curtis – co-founder of The Pink Protest