Girls are missing school because they can’t afford sanitary products. In Britain. In 2017.

Sanitary towels periods
Support us and go ad-free

Girls are missing school because they can’t afford sanitary products. We know lots about period poverty in the developing world. But girls from low-income families in the UK are also having to play truant because they can’t afford pads and tampons.

Freedom

Freedom4Girls is a campaign that sends sanitary products to women and girls in countries like Kenya. And they’ve revealed they’re now doing the same for a school in Leeds. A teacher got in touch with Tina Leslie, a public health worker involved with Freedom4Girls, when they realised some girls were missing school for a few days at the same time every month.

Leslie told BBC Radio 4‘s Woman’s Hour she isn’t surprised that girls in Leeds are suffering. Period poverty is a long-standing reality for homeless women across the UK. Last year, Boots started a donation system for pads and tampons. And food banks provide sanitary products, too.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Dropouts around the world

Girls missing school because of their periods is certainly nothing new. A UNESCO report [pdf, p15] says one girl in ten in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during her menstrual cycle. Many girls stop going to school altogether once their periods start. In India, the dropout rate for girls who start menstruating is 20%. In Nepal and Afghanistan, 30% of girls report missing school because of their periods.

UNESCO reports that 50% of school-age girls in Kenya do not have access to sanitary products.

And for poor children in Britain, the reality is no different. But Leslie points out that we have no idea how many girls are affected.

Physical and emotional pain

Teenagers speaking to BBC Radio Leeds explained what their reality is like. One girl describes wrapping socks and tissues around her underwear to keep it dry so she can get through the school day. Another says:

I didn’t get any money because my mum was a single parent and she had five mouths to feed. So there wasn’t much leftover money in the pot to be giving to us.

She went on to explain that she’d take a few days a month off, every month, because of the pain. When asked if this was physical or emotional pain, she says, “both”. Another girl describes truanting because:

I didn’t know what was going on with my body.

It was only because teachers noticed her low attendance, and because she was able to open up to them, that she got any help at all.

Food-bank Britain

It may be hard to believe that British girls can be left so confused and scared every month. That they feel they have no option but to miss school to deal with the bleeding and the pain. That they’re experiencing the shame that comes with not being able to do anything about it. But Leslie thinks that what’s happening links directly to other kinds of poverty. Because Britain is a country where up to a million people a year are now using food banks to survive.

One Labour MSP, Monica Lennon, is advocating for Scotland to become the first country in the world to provide sanitary products free of charge. For many, that will be the only way they can afford basic hygiene.

Get Involved!

– Support Freedom4Girls.

Featured image via Tiia Monto

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed