At Leila & Geoffrey we support a range of artists, charities and creative businesses. We especially like to advocate social enterprises that make an impact.
Menstruation. Periods. Being On.
It’s often considered an embarrassing topic, even a taboo subject in some parts of the globe, but half of the world’s population bleeds every month. For some women they purchase sanitary products, cope with their body’s changing hormone levels and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and then, perhaps, forget about it for a few weeks.
For some it’s not as easy as that. Over 2.5 billion people globally lack access to basic sanitation and hygiene, and the United Nations has recognised menstrual hygiene as a global public health and human-rights issue.
But that’s just in developing countries, right?
Wrong. In March 2017 the BBC published a report that revealed UK children were regularly missing school because they couldn’t afford to buy menstrual products. Shockingly, some girls were wrapping socks around their underwear to stop the bleeding or using newspaper.
The term ‘period poverty’ refers to being unable to access menstrual products because of financial challenges, which according to charity Plan International UK, is 1 in 10 girls. This really only came to light after charity Freedom 4 Girls, originally providing menstrual products to schoolgirls in Kenya, was forced to redirect some of their deliveries to schools in Leeds.
In the UK, research has shown that women spend over £18,000 on their periods over the course of their lifetime. This includes essential sanitary items and pain relief but also new underwear. Additionally, they are still paying a 5% VAT as feminine hygiene products are deemed a ‘luxury item’.
As poverty and governmental cutbacks bite and there’s a growing dependence on food bank handouts, menstrual products have, for some, become an unattainable luxury rather than a monthly necessity.
Finally, many women are also suffering the prolific shame and embarrassment around their periods in silence, and feel unable or reluctant to ask for help.
Thankfully, there are organisations that channel their horror into action.
Free Periods is on a mission to ensure no girl in the UK is living in period poverty. Headed up by Amika George, who balances homework with a radical call to action, Free Periods is on a mission to make sure that no girl in the UK is living in period poverty.
Before eating her breakfast before school back in 2017, Amika was so shocked to learn that girls her age and younger were missing out on an education because of the lack of sanitary support they receive, it propelled her to take action; and she started Free Periods from her bedroom.
In December 2017, the movement organised a 2000-people protest outside Downing Street, calling on the Government to end period poverty. £1.5 million was given in funds (proving that activism really does work) but Amika believes the fight for #freeperiods is far from over and they want more; specifically, for the Government to make a statutory pledge to end period poverty by providing free menstrual products to all girls in the UK on Free School Meals.
They also want to normalise the conversation surrounding periods and end the silence and stigma that comes with it – feelings which are likely to be even worse for women facing period poverty.
“Ultimately, it’s a women issue and we live in a patriarchal society with a patriarchal government” says Amika. “There’s this idea that, because only women have periods, they can be swept under the carpet”.
Free Periods have outlined ways in which you can help:
- Support their Partners (including Bloody Good Period, Freda and Freedom 4 Girls)
- Write to your MP
- Tweet Damien Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, to demand that all girls on free school meals should receive free sanitary products
- Sign the change.org petition
Further information is available on the website here.
Amika and the Free Periods feminist movement is on a mission to rid period poverty from our schools and our history. In the movement’s words, “It’s damaging. It’s undignified. It’s unacceptable, and it must stop”.
We support them every step of the way. Menstrual hygiene is a human right. Period.