UK Schools Tackle Period Poverty By Offering Free Menstrual Products To Students

While most people are focused on the news surrounding Brexit, here’s some news worth celebrating out of the UK – as part of a new scheme spearheaded by the Department of Education, all British schools and colleges can now offer free menstrual hygiene products to students. The Department has made products available but it is up to the schools to sign up for the program.

This monumental step was made possible thanks to menstrual companies and organizations in the UK, as well as one individual activist – 20 year-old Amika George, who started a campaign called #freeperiods when she was just 17. In a Guardian article she writes about how the shame and stigma around a normal bodily function needs to be abolished, boys and men need to be part of the conversation, and why the continued taboo nature of this issue leads to bullying and other negative consequences for those who menstruate in society.

“Encouraging the next generation to view periods as a natural physical process, rather than a source of shame and embarrassment, is vital to build a more equal society…It should be no surprise that one in five young women aged between 14 and 21 have been bullied about their periods. The taboo around periods is a form of misogyny, emblematic of the broader subordination of women,” wrote Amika.

With growing awareness about the ridiculous tampon tax and how it can become a way for institutions like the prison system to dehumanize female inmates by denying them adequate menstrual products, the UK is making not just a progressive policy decision, but also a cultural one, in the hope it can play a vital role alongside activists and orgs who are working to break down stigma.

According to the BBC, the government will designate a set amount of money for the schools who sign up for the scheme, based on a calculation that roughly 35% of pupils who menstruate will use them. This news comes after the UK government pledged in March 2019 it would offer menstrual products to all secondary schools. Now with the expansion of primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, the impact is going to be far and wide.

The scheme is also placing a focus on environmentally friendly and plastic-free products, alongside traditional disposable pads and tampons. Studies have shown that a lack of knowledge about reusable period products is the main obstacle to young people making the switch. 2018 research by Plan International UK, which focused on 11 to 18-year-olds, found that those who had heard of reusables cited YouTube as their main source of information. Bringing reusables to the school environment will help to educate learners about their options in a safe and trusted environment.

Products like British-based Mooncup, a medical-grade silicon cup which has been around since 2002 are making their product available as part of the scheme. The reusable Mooncup menstrual cup offers a more sustainable way to manage periods. When cleaned and stored properly, the Mooncup will last years and years and is an effective way to eliminate the cost of managing periods.

This is not the first time that Brighton-based Mooncup Ltd is making history. Mooncup Ltd was the first manufacturer in the world to produce a reusable medical grade silicone cup. Made in the UK to the highest quality standards, Mooncup has always had customer care, environmentalism and ethics at its core.

The company, which regularly works with various sexual health organizations in the UK for awareness campaigns and initiatives, said they are excited to be working with the Dept. of Education on this important step forward.

“Based on our experience of working with the Sexual Health & Wellbeing Charity Brook, we know that young people find the cost-effectiveness of menstrual cups particularly appealing, as well as their convenience and low environmental impact. Our goal from day one has been to make menstruation as positive an experience as it can possibly be. We hope that this initiative, and the conversation around it, will help in continuing to break the taboo around periods as well as giving young people access to information about all their menstrual product options,” said Kath Clements, Company Director of Mooncup Ltd.

As the BBC reports, campaigners are urging schools to take part in this scheme as it could help prevent children missing school if they don’t have access to products at home. This isn’t just an issue about menstrual hygiene, it is an intersectional issue that impacts education opportunities, financial opportunities, as well as environmental issues.

More and more countries are waking up to the fact that the tampon tax needs to be abolished, but we must continue the advocacy until period stigma is eliminated everywhere.

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