How many times have we seen in public toilets the posters asking for donations so those menstruating in refugee camps
and poverty overseas can be given products?
Where they emotively suggest that periods are just another hell these people must go through. While these are important
campaigns, perhaps it has made the realisation that menstruators in the UK also face period poverty harder to contemplate.
1 in 10 menstruators cannot afford to buy products (Free Periods.org). This causes a great knock on effect especially when you consider that there is still a shocking amount of stigma around menstruating, with a survey revealing that 82% hide and conceal menstruating products and 3/4 admitting
they feel embarrassed buying products (Telegraph 2017). This highlights the important work that The Red Box Project is doing, as it enables those who need products while at school can get them for free. Not only does this help break the stigma by pushing the need to have a UK wide dialogue about periods, it also means that those menstruating can stay in school as they have the products they need regardless of their own apprehensions of buying products or their financial circumstances.
During last summer while at a service station, an emergency stop because I had started my period, I found myself staring at one such poster I mentioned above, which made me think of those affecting by period poverty here in the UK.I
I was reminded to my time at high school where I would have friends whisper to me:
“Can I have some pads off you?”
Or alarmed texts at 7am asking in all capitals:
PLEASE BRING PADS TO SCHOOL I’VE COME ON AND DON’T HAVE ANYTHING!
This was because they knew my mother has a habit of bulk buying sanitary products whenever they’re on offer. I made sure all my friends knew that I was up to my ears in sanitary pads and if they ever needed some to let me know. The relief on their face when I was able to provide them products and never ask for anything in return was a reality I thought was normal. It wasn’t until coming to university, where once again I let all my flatmates know I had an excess of products and if they ever needed some they could take what they needed, that I began to question why is it normal for so many people to not feel comfortable getting or not afford products for when they’re menstruating.
This was also around the time my fellow Netball execs and I were beginning to discuss plans for the following year. I knew then that I wanted to do something to support charities doing something for period poverty, so during are first official exec meeting in September I told them that I wanted to raise money for period poverty and I felt strongly it was an issue that Netball as a sport should get involved with. As Always’s campaign shows menstruators tend to drop out of sport when they begin their period, as a sports team we want to encourage all people to join sport regardless of your menstruation.
While we discussed the best way of fundraising the SU announced they also wanted to help tackle period poverty and help The Red Box Project. The timing couldn’t be more perfect and we quickly began talks with the SU and our Netball team.
Our event took place on the 30th of January, a bench ball tournament where our Netball team played against people who donated to play. We also had a bake sale with cakes and brownies baked by our team mates and informational boards from Martha Warren, our Green Officer, and Grace Loveday, our LGBT+ Officer. These informed us on how to be sustainable whilst menstruating and also how periods need to be discussed in a way that includes all menstruators and not just exclusively cisgender females
We raised £70.10 which we used to buy underwear, tights, tampons and sanitary pads, which added to the products donated to us at the event meant we could fill two boxes ready to be taken to the local Red Box.
The event was a great success and we would like to thank every single person who turned up, donated, helped us out or just supported us in anyway, we especially thank Dance Society who stayed for the whole event. I would also implore all of you to discuss periods more openly and to donate products if you are able to.
If you find yourself unable to buy products you need whilst here at university, there is always menstruating products upstairs in the SU available to you which are free to take.
Written by Stacy Archer
Edited and Photos by Bethany Collins