'Everyone deserves a bloody good period, a basic right still not granted'

Rachel and Gabby from Bloody Good Period. (Supplied)
Current and past Bloody Good Period CEO Rachel (L) and Gabby (R) talk menstrual equity. (Supplied/Anya Goldenberg/Sarah Tulej)

Bloody Good Period (BGP) – founded by Gabby Jahanshahi-Edlin in 2016, who stepped down in 2022 and appointed her first hire Rachel Grocott as CEO – is a UK-based charity working to achieve menstrual equity, so no one is held back by their period.

Yes, in 2024 women and people who menstruate are still at a disadvantage and periods and products are not treated as an essential in society.

Aware it shouldn't have to, BGP helps provide period products to people who can't afford them across the country, prioritising refugees and asylum seekers. The team also works to normalise periods (yes girls at school are still hiding tampons in their sleeves), provide accessible information and champion periods in the workplace with its Bloody Good Employers division.

As CEOs past and present, Yahoo UK talks to Gabby and Rachel about why everyone deserves a bloody good period (but might not get one), the life-changing work the charity has done over the years and what help is still needed – we're looking at you, government.

Founding Bloody Good Period

Gabby Bloody Good Period. (Supplied)
Bloody Good Period started with a Facebook status. (Supplied/Tom Martin)

Gabby – who now helps other founder-led organisations – started BGP after volunteering at a drop-in centre for asylum seekers and realising they didn't have period products, nor the funding or storage.

"I was told people would only be given them in an emergency," she recalls.

"But it was clear to me that every period you don’t have the products for is an emergency, and we shouldn't be waiting for people to suffer."

Gabby started collecting products via a Facebook status and Amazon wish list and it grew from there. "It was a growth time for feminism when we realised not everyone had the equality we thought they did."

She knew she needed to make a sustainable service, with advocacy following thereafter. "Period products should be free for everybody just like condoms are and just like toilet paper is in public places," she adds.

Unsurprisingly, being a founder and public-facing activist was challenging at times, but she's proud of the huge difference she helped to make over nearly six years.

"I always knew I wasn't going to stay forever. I wanted to get the organisation to a place where I felt like it could run without me, and that was the case when I left. It needed space to grow without me. And it has."

Striving for period equity

Rachel bloody good period. (Supplied/Anya Goldenberg)
Rachel's time as CEO has been a 'whirlwind' so far, but one she's happy to be part of. (Supplied/Anya Goldenberg)

"The last couple of years have been really tough for charities, causing burnout," current CEO Rachel explains. "Given how much we rely on small charities in the UK to fill the gaps left by lack of government provision, it's really worrying.

"But I'd far rather be trying to do something about that than working anywhere else."

Highlighted by COVID, food banks and community groups, period products often aren't automatically included in support mechanisms.

"We're here to change that through providing the products, but also talking about periods as a normal topic of conversation free from euphemisms and embarrassment, which still exists," Rachel adds, with stigma affecting both physical and mental health.

BGP has always fought against calling period products hygiene or sanitary products as periods aren't unhygienic. In March 2022, Asda changed its name from 'feminine hygiene aisle' to 'period products', with other retailers doing the same.

"We also want to highlight that bad period pain is not normal and we shouldn't only be referring to women when talking about menstruation, because trans, non-binary and gender diverse people can also have periods," says Rachel.

She also points out that for refugees and asylum seekers, the trauma they've likely been through can also show up in their cycle, with heavy bleeding, just as stress can affect our periods.

Real change helping real people

Gabby bloody good period. (Supplied/Sarah Tulej)
Gabby is proud of the work she did at Bloody Good Period and the work the team is doing now. (Supplied/Sarah Tulej)

"One thing I was always so proud of," recalls Gabby of her time at BGP, "was when women at the drop-in centres would no longer have to spend £10/£20 of their limited asylum seeker budget every month on period products and would have the security the products would always be there.

"Trans people also told us they felt heard and included, while we helped older women who said their period pain had meant they'd had to take sick days and were pushed out of the workplace."

Still seeing change today, Rachel says: "Our work means people are able to participate in school, go to work, leave the house. We've heard of women who were afraid to leave the house because they didn't have period products, but were also afraid to sit on the sofas in their accommodation in case they leaked."

They've also been able to help provide good quality products that don't cause irritation and infections.

Key problems the UK still faces

Rachel bloody good period. (Supplied/Anya Goldenberg)
Bloody Good Period wants the government to provide period products for everybody. (Supplied/Anya Goldenberg)

While we've taken strides forward, including abolishing the Tampon Tax, we still have a way to go, with the cost of living crisis putting us back a few steps.

"I feel like I need to find a superlative for 'unprecedented'," says Rachel, who has witnessed the price of periods go up astronomically (one of their commonly requested products increased by 69% in cost between November-December 2023, hitting individual consumers too).

Demand is also huge. BGP was grateful to be given some restricted product provision funding between January-March 2024, but the entirety could have been spent by 5th February.

Rachel explains they've also seen a massive issue with girls not being able to go to the toilet during class to change their product because of teachers with a lack of awareness questioning them.

"I'm obviously making a massive generalisation, but a big part of many problems comes from people in positions of power not menstruating," she says.

Gabby adds we also still have the issue of misunderstanding who asylum seekers and refugees are. "They are not criminals coming to the UK. They are people who are seeking safety which is their right. It could happen to any of us."

What can government, schools and workplaces do?

girl with hand up in classroom
It's not just period products we need to achieve menstrual equity. (Getty Images)

"Provide products," says Rachel. "They are in schools, a massive step forward, but there's no formal provision in other groups. We also need more education and conversation."

The Bloody Good Employers Programme (which operates as a social enterprise donating profits back to BGP), helps provide workplaces with a basic level of understanding – often missing due to the shame and stigma traditionally linked to periods. It seeks to improve work cultures, communications and policies, to make our workplaces more accommodating and not tolerant of periods being the brunt of jokes.

Recognising period poverty everywhere

Ensuring access to the right period products for everyone is a mission BGP thinks about on a global scale. For example, the UN estimates nearly 700,000 women and girls in Gaza have menstrual cycles, which they are currently trying to manage without privacy, access to pads, toilets, clean water, medicine and worse.

"I think it’s important to acknowledge there are problems internationally but there are also a lot of problems over here to contribute to as well," says Gabby.

"When I first started BGP I struggled with the idea that people were trying to solve problems in cultures they were unfamiliar with. But if it's something you feel really passionately about, I'd say to give to organisations that are already there on the ground doing the work. Just do what you can."

Most importantly, she adds: "What it does tell you is the experience of women and people having periods is the same everywhere and women are often the first people to be impacted. For so long we have not seen period products as essential items, so they're not necessarily taken out in aid packages.

"It is worth noticing how far these inequalities stretch."

While BGP only operates within the UK, Rachel adds: "We do want to highlight these are everyday issues faced by women in all circumstances, from the everyday to the extreme. But it shouldn't be the case for anyone."

Future of Bloody Good Period

Gabby maintains BGP shouldn't have to exist in the way that it does, and hopes the team continues to campaign to make period products a right to access.

Rachel says, "We want the government to provide period products for everybody, along with education and normalisation. That's a big part of our focus this year as we head into a general election.

"Periods are responsible for life on this planet. But with the shame that surrounds them, you'd never know they were such an important and remarkable process – an organ spontaneously regenerating itself every month without leaving scar tissue.

"We need to acknowledge the reality and impact they have on the lives of women and people who have them in society to show everyone's needs matter and everyone gets the right support."

You can visit Bloody Good Period, Bloody Good Employers, and donate to BGP here.

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