Girls skipping school because of their periods is a regular occurrence in parts of the developing world. In rural Uganda, girls miss around eight days of school every term due to lack of sanitary protection and period stigma, while in Nepal approximately 30% of girls miss school during their periods. But here in the UK, where we have access to a wealth of period provisions there’s no need for girls to let menstruation put their education on hold. Or is there?
New research has revealed that British girls from low-income families are missing school while they are on their period because they simply can’t afford sanitary products like tampons.
Freedom4Girls, a charity who traditionally send sanitary provisions to schoolgirls in Africa, was contacted by a school in Leeds after they found some of their female students were skipping school because they didn’t have access to period products.
Tina Leslie, a public health worker in Leeds and part of Freedom4Girls, arranged for sample packs to be sent to the school but admitted it was “not a sustainable solution”.
Tina told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour that it was unclear how many girls were in this situation in the UK, but that more research was needed.
“We had an idea that there was something happening in schools. It’s linked to poverty – 25,000 visits to food banks just in Leeds last year,” she explained.
Tina explained that girls often feel embarrassed asking their parents for period products and when money is an issue, the knowledge they could be costing their family extra money can add to the shame and embarrassment.
“It’s happening in other schools. Teachers have told me they are buying towels to have just in case.
Now they’ve launched a campaign to fund further research into how periods are stopping girls going to school, and to provide support for those unable to buy tampons and sanitary towels in the UK.
But it’s clear more needs to be done to tackle period poverty. Period products need to be made readily available to all girls and women, because sanitary protection is an essential, not a luxury.
We also need to continue to break down the period stigma, so girls feel able to openly talk about the fact they need sanitary protection.
The fact that girls in the UK would prefer to miss out on their education than speak to an adult about their needs shows that the system is failing. As Tina says something needs to change.
“We need to give these girls dignity back.”
What do you think needs to be done? Let us know @YahooStyleUK
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