Tampons. Pads. Liners. They’re the products that, chances are, you’ve been taking for granted for years. Like Netflix, the pill and, ahem, avocados.
But not anymore.
Earlier on this month, that monthly BFF Always revealed shocking stats about the impact period poverty is having on the next generation – right here in the UK.
Period Poverty UK: The Stats
• 137,700 school girls across the UK regularly miss school because they cannot afford sanitary products
• 1 in 10 parents admit they’ve been forced to send their daughter to school without pads or tampons
• 21% of parents have gone without, so they had enough money to meet their daughter’s sanitary protection needs – 6% have been so desperate, they have resorted to stealing on the occasions they couldn’t afford them
• 9 in 10 school girls have been asked by a friend for a pad or tampon because she couldn’t afford to buy them, while 25% have resorted to using tissues or cotton wool
To raise awareness of this situation and to support those women in need, Always has teamed up with celebrities such as Alesha Dixon for its #EndPeriodPoverty campaign, and is asking the nation to share an image of themselves as a school girl and tag #EndPeriodPoverty on social media.
For every share, a pad will be donated to a school girl who needs it.
Simple yet effective.
“Puberty is a hard enough time to navigate without feeling embarrassed about not being able to afford essential sanitary products,” says Dixon. “No girl today should experience that. This campaign is important in creating a conversation around periods and lifting the stigma that surrounds them. Every woman deserves a space to feel safe.”
You’ve come to the right place.
Here’s how the conversation went when we called up Dixon to talk periods.
How did you get comfortable with talking about periods?
“When I was in primary school, my friends and I had what we called ‘Period Club’,” says Dixon. “We’d gather at my house with period-related facts and products, and it was a safe space where we could talk about what was about to happen to our bodies and ask any questions. It sounds silly looking back but it really helped us to prepare for that time when we would start our periods. For me, that was when I was around 15 years old. Even as you get older, though, it’s important to have friends who you can talk to openly about things like your period and how you’re feeling, without having to sugar-coat or remix anything.”
Why do you think it’s important to raise the profile of periods?
“A lot of our mood swings and emotions are because of our menstrual cycle, and I don’t think we should ignore that. It’s what makes us a woman and is part of who we are. Some women can breeze through their period; for others, it really affects them. We shouldn’t dumb down periods or see them as a sign of weakness. That is definitely not the case. It’s inevitable that there will be days when we feel a bit wobbly so men and women should learn to be sensitive and respectful of each other, and understanding of that.”
How can women support each other?
“Even though periods are so normal, so common and so natural, for some reason, each month they still feel like a personal thing that you’ve got to keep a lid on. You’re there trying to stay balanced and calm but naturally, some months, your period will take hold of you. That’s definitely the case for me. Some months, I’ll be more sensitive, grumpy or down in myself. I have to work really hard to manage my emotions then – particularly when I’m working. I know the smallest thing could set me off – which you don’t always want if you’re filming live TV.”
What are your PMS heroes?
“For me, they’re exercise, healthy eating and getting plenty of sleep. Like many women, I’ll often crave chocolate, crisps and wine when I’m due or on my period. And I’ll say no to that tight-fitting dress. But last year, I spent three months consistently exercising three times a week, I cut out alcohol, and I ate really healthily, and I found my monthly cycle was so much easier to deal with.”
Closing words on periods…
“Periods may not be glamorous but remember, they’re nothing to be ashamed about. Half the population goes through them and they’re what makes us women. They’re also what populates the planet. I hope by being open about periods, we can take away some of the fear around them – something that’s particularly important for me, for my daughter. I want her to be comfortable and to know that her period is something that makes her special. I like to embrace my period by seeing it as a reminder that everything inside is working and okay.”
Find out more about how you, too, can #EndPeriodPoverty.