On Tuesday, I felt disheartened to read how many UK schoolgirls are skipping school several days a month because it links to their inability to afford sanitary protection. Some are relying on toilet roll to relieve their clothing of stains, or even using socks. Personally, the only time I have had to resort to toilet roll to soak up menstrual blood has been my irregular cycle striking my uterus at unpredictable times i.e. being in a public place and having no reserved rations of towels on me. Being a woman is hard.
When your family struggle enough to afford food, despite the influx of families receiving help from food banks, access to what should be basic toiletries is going to be restricted. Hopefully as of next April, the tampon tax, which sees sanitary products be taxed a further 5% for being a ‘non-essential’ product, will be axed, thanks to the tenacity and determination of Laura Coryton’s campaign. The sorts of taxes and laws which exist under a heavily male government are almost satirical.
While the abolition of this tax will make a slight different, sanitary products are of course still expensive. By the time periods are no longer stigmatised, the whole population able to menstruate probably would have churned out millions of vats of period blood. At Tesco, you can buy 24 tampons for a £1 which is the cheapest rate. However, women shouldn’t have to resort to what’s cheapest for such a function of the product, but then again, beggars can’t necessarily be choosers.
Not only due to costs but also convenience, I have opted to go on the mini-pill – a form of contraception which means I take the pill back to back, therefore not bleeding at all. Obviously, this isn’t an option for everyone, due to factors like age, necessity, the health risks. As with anything these days, of course.
In the BBC’s article, Tina Leslie who created Freedom4Girls mentioned that “we need to give these girls dignity back”. Having no dignity makes it sound almost shameful that these girls are sat at home bleeding out of their vaginas in fear. There really is no shame in menstruating, and schools should ensure they are establishing this view in pre-teens early on and maintaining it throughout the years.
We really are living in a divided nation where some stay quiet about a bodily function natural to a girl which signals the blossoming of her womanhood, and others ‘free bleed’ and make recipes using their blood. Okay, I don’t know if that last part is true, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Personally, the best means of going forward is to now provide a wider range of what’s available at food banks. My mother donates toiletries to the homeless, and I think more similar initiatives should exist. For example, a monthly box of toiletries you can collect including enough sanitary products for however many in the household require them, unisex shower gel, basic razors etc. This not only solves the problem of affording sanitary products but also gives a range of other basic toiletries which everybody should be entitled to.
Of course, there are charities who you can send sanitary products to as donations so that they can distribute them to the needy, such as Bloody Good Period and The Homeless Period among various others across the nation.