By now, it’s generally agreed – whether you experience them yourself or not – that being on your period is pretty unpleasant. It’s messy, painful and frankly just a bit of a nuisance. But what if you’re homeless? Or struggling to afford food? How much worse would your period be if you didn’t have access to, or simply couldn’t afford, tampons and pads? The difficulty of coping with your period when you don’t actually have the money for sanitary items is a horrible problem and one which simply shouldn’t exist.
An article last year in the Huffington Post highlighted the issue faced by homeless women of acquiring sanitary items and managing their periods without necessarily having regular access to toilets. Tampons and pads can be expensive and are still taxed as luxury items. There is a petition to end the tax which currently has 316, 502 signatures. It’s now only a 5% tax but if you’re already struggling to afford food, this can make a significant difference and labelling such items as luxuries is surely wrong to begin with.
It’s not just uncomfortable or embarrassing if you struggle to buy sanitary items – not being able to change pads and tampons regularly is a health issue as it can lead to infections. This is not just a problem in the UK. Menstrual Hygiene Day has been set up to educate people around the world about the importance of having access to proper sanitary products and to counteract the problems which lack of knowledge and availability can create. UNESCO estimates that one in ten African adolescent girls is forced to miss school regularly or drop out altogether as a result of insufficient access to sanitary items and adequate hygiene education.
The growing media attention the issue has received has led to several different movements organising collections to donate much-needed products to women currently struggling to get hold of them. One such collection was set up here in Durham last March; Christian social justice group, Just Love, Durham asked various charities in the North East if they struggled to provide sanitary items to women and whether donations would be useful. As the answer was an over-whelming ‘yes’, they ran a university-wide collection in collaboration with college Feminist Societies to answer this need by donating sanitary products. The collection was appropriately named Giving: Strings Attached and managed to collect 5017 individual sanitary items in total.
This year, the collection is back! Just Love are again collecting unopened packets of pads and tampons to give to three local charities: A Way Out, Oasis Aquila Housing and Durham Foodbank. There are collection points in many of the university colleges as well as St Nic’s church and houses in Gilesgate, Claypath and the Viaduct. Monetary donations to Just Love will be used to buy pads and tampons in bulk.
This shouldn’t be labelled a ‘women’s issue’ and pushed to one side as something for a FemSoc to deal with. When it comes down to it, it’s a social issue and it’s up us as a society to help out. Everyone can and should be working to end the stigma surrounding periods and to support those who are genuinely in need. This is a brilliant opportunity to contribute to the local community as donations are massively appreciated by the charities. The collection is running until the 18th March. Please take the chance to participate in a worthwhile cause!