Radical proposals which would see Bath and North East Somerset at the forefront of efforts to end period poverty are set to be debated by councillors at their meeting on March 14. The proposals, put forward by B&NES Labour Group, would see an emphasis on the provision of reusable products such as menstrual cups and washable pads alongside access to plastic-free disposable sanitary products to those experiencing period poverty.
Research by girls’ rights charity Plan International UK has found that periods are surrounded by shame and stigma. 48% of girls feel embarrassed by their periods rising to 56% of 14 years olds. When it comes to period poverty, one in ten girls are unable to afford sanitary products and a similar proportion have had to improvise sanitary wear, using for example toilet paper and Sellotape to manage their periods.
B&NES Labour Group’s spokesperson for Young People, Cllr Liz Hardman (Labour, Paulton) said “There is a growing body of evidence that girls are missing out on education because they can’t afford sanitary products. It cannot be right that in 21st Century Britain, teenagers are forced to improvise sanitary wear by using toilet paper or rolled up socks. There is so much stigma surrounding periods, and for girls not to have access to the products they need only adds to their sense of embarrassment and shame. It is time for councillors to take the lead in addressing this issue which has been hidden away for far too long. Our motion would lead to a pilot scheme which would provide all girls with a choice of reusable products including menstrual cups and washable pads along with the advice needed to start using these products”.
Campaigner Rachel Willis who will be addressing the Council meeting and urging councillors to support the proposals said “Period poverty has a particular impact on school girls who have no source of income and are therefore entirely reliant on the adults in their lives to provide them with the products they need to manage their periods. If agreed, this motion will provide a long-lasting and sustainable solution to the problem of period poverty. We hear so much about climate change and ocean plastic. Many people will be shocked to learn that some disposable products contain the equivalent of four carrier bags of plastic which takes hundreds of years to biodegrade. Reusable products not only address environmental concerns but also have built into them the means of addressing period poverty for the long term. It will be important to ensure that the provision of reusable products goes hand-in-hand with education, as many people will be unfamiliar with these items. It is also important that girls and women have a choice through the provision of plastic-free disposable products to those in need”.