Today, Scotland announced they would be piloting a new (and long overdue) program to tackle period poverty. The scheme was launched by equalities secretary Angela Constance and will be spearheaded by the Community Food Initiatives North East social enterprise. Essentially, it will make sanitary products available to low-income groups. The pilot program will take place in Aberdeen before, hopefully, spreading country-wide.
Period poverty is often overlooked but, for those who cannot afford sanitary products, it is a monthly struggle. Anyone with a period will know the panic and preoccupation of not having a spare pad or tampon. But few of us understand the traumatic experience of never having them. Of being forced to go without and coming up with poor substitution for a week of every month. People, especially those who have never experienced as period, simply do not understand the severity of the situation.
Using Newspapers And Socks
“It’s something I would hope every woman and girl has access to,” Ewan Gunn, of The Trussell Trust, told Good Morning Scotland. “We’ve taken evidence across the country of women who supplement that by the use of socks, they would use toilet paper and in some of the worst circumstances, I’ve come into contact with women who supplemented that by the use of newspaper. It’s literally as grave as that.” It’s shocking, but many women and girls will have no other choice.
He also pointed out the hypocrisy of condoms being given out freely. Sex is something you choose to have, but those of us who are lumbered with a period do not choose it. “Schools and colleges will provide condoms for something that you can abstain from, but you cannot abstain from having your period. We need to find a way that we can provide for this issue right now.”
It’s not that free condoms shouldn’t be given out— they definitely should be— but free sanitary products should, too. Instead, in many countries they are taxed as luxuries, as though having something to stop you from bleeding onto the street is luxurious. But not only that, in some places the money from those taxes goes to fund anti-abortion groups, which is frankly, perverse.
We Need An Overhaul
We need a massive overhaul of the way we look at menstrual hygiene and sanitary products. Luckily, Scotland is taking the first step towards that. I wouldn’t mind a tax on my tampons if I knew that it was going to help women who couldn’t afford sanitary products can get them for free. But those are about the only circumstances in which I would be OK with it.
And the truth is, it shouldn’t have to come to that. Comprehensive health care provides medication, painkillers, operations, and more. How can there not be funding to deal with a health issue that affects half the population every single month? The Scottish pilot program is a great start, but we need to go further. Period poverty is a very real problem— and needs bigger solutions. Which is why Labour MSP Monica Lennon has announced that she “will soon be launching a consultation on a Member’s Bill proposal which will give all women in Scotland the right to access these products for free, regardless of their income”. It can’t come soon enough.