Scotland becomes the first country in the world to offer free period products. Emma Mason reports
After a four-year grassroots campaign spearheaded by Monica Lennon, Scotland has officially become the first country in the world to end period poverty by offering free sanitary products for all those in need.
The Scottish government’s announcement is a huge step in amending the issue of period poverty in the UK, given that a quarter of British women have experienced this issue at some point in their lives.
In 2018, Scotland was already leading the way as the first country to provide free period products in schools and colleges. England followed suit in January 2020. But with the pandemic forcing schools to close for months, young girls’ access to sanitary products became more and more difficult.
In fact, even before March, it was reported that over a quarter of schoolgirls and women who did not have access to adequate supplies were forced to miss either school or work. Now, The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill ensures this will no longer be a decision any girl or women will be forced to make.
Lennon, in an interview with The Guardian stated that “This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates. There has already been great progress at a community level and through local authorities in giving everyone the chance of period dignity.”
In England, although no laws have been passed yet, similar schemes have aimed to follow Lennon’s trailblazing tactics. The social enterprise Hey Girls, founded by Celia Hodson, created the unique product Unsanitary pads as a creative way to draw attention to England’s period problem.
In an online survey conducted across 1000 young women, Hey Girls discovered that 1 in 6 women or members of their family have at some point resorted to using ‘unsanitary pads’ through lack of financially viable alternative.
Through their campaign, period products were filled with loo roll, newspaper or folded up socks, a representation of what thousands of women and girls in the UK still resort to using during their menstruation.
According to obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Brooke Vandermolen, in extreme cases, there can be an ‘increased risk of urinary tract and vaginal infections and skin rashes which can escalate and lead to complications’.
These are problems that no girl or woman should have to face.
So, how can we help?
You can donate a box of pads or a menstrual cup directly to a person in need through the Hey Girls website. Alternatively, for every pack purchased for yourself, they will match it in donations.
Let’s hope other countries follow Scotland’s lead and end period poverty for good.