Periods are expensive. Pads, tampons, new underwear, pain relief and all the extras that go along with it. Even if you only focus on the costs of period products, the average menstruator can spend over £18,000 in their lifetime. We believe that the last thing you should be worrying about when you're bleeding and cramping is if you can afford to buy another pack of peads or tampons to make it thorugh your cycle. We are commited to talking period poverty and ending the taboo surrounding menstruation to support our students.
We successfully campaigned the University in to commit to providing free period products in all bathrooms across the High Wycombe, Uxbridge, and Aylesbury campuses for the next few years to make sure that anybody who menstruates has access to products, especially in the cost of living crisis with the prices of everything sky rocketing.
What is Period Poverty?
Period Poverty doesn't just cover the situation in which people cannot afford to buy products to get them through their period. It also cover the lack of knowledge that some people have when they get their period for the first time and the shame and taboo associated with periods which makes menstruators ashamed to speak up and can lead to health implications. Periods are a universal fact of life but Plan Internation found that:
- 1 in 10 girls* found themselves unable to afford period products.
- 2 in 5 girls have had to improvise using socks, newspaper or loo roll.
- Over 1 in 3 girls have missed a day in the classroom due to their period, putting them behind their non-menstruating peers.
These figures have only frown during Lockdown where 3 in 10 women were unable to afford or access period products. Due to a lack of education, some people who menstruate weren't sure if they were allowed to leave their homes to purchase periods products as they didn't think period products would be classed as essential. Some supermarkets even cornered off the (poorly labelled) 'feminine hygiene' aisles as they weren't deemed essential. The lack of education leads to confusion which can have severe health impacts on the lives of so many people.
People who menstruate still face shame and stigma for a natural, healthy process which can make reaching out for help incredibly difficult. This societal taboo prevents people from talking about their periods and makes it harder for those who are struggling to reach out for the support they need.
*We understand that not all women menstruate and not all menstruators are women. These stats are from Plan International.
So what are we doing?
We don't believe any of our students should miss out because of their period, so we launched #BloodyGoodBucks in 2021 to provide free period products to our students, right across campus to help cycle out period poverty. You don't need to ask anyone if you can have some, you don't need to tell us you're struggling to afford them. We've put them in places accessible to you so that you won't have to worry about any stigmas or judgement when using our free period products.
As someone who has a period, you may be familliar with a surprise period, borrowing from a friend or even triple checking that you've packed a spare. Most of you may be lucky enough to not give a second thought about how you will deal with your period when it comes around but for others, it's a monthly battle. Period poverty is most likely to affect people from low-income background and may result in them missing lessons, workshops or placement for several days every month. Those days add up and can result in missing crucial parts of your Univeristy course and may lead to you falling behind - all because of something you can't control.
We started by rolling out free period products in all the toilets across the Uxbridge Campus with spares being available in the Students’ Union office besides Pulse café should you ever need them. We then rolled out the free period products on every single floor of the High Wycombe Library in both the gender neutral/disabled toilets and the ladies’ toilets. Once lockdown lifted and we welcomed students back on campus again, we worked with the University to ensure we could provide free period products in as many toilets across the three campuses as we could. We're proud to say that we have campaigned the University to commit to providing free period products in all bathrooms across the High Wycombe, Uxbridge, and Aylesbury campuses for the next few years.
What can I do?
Period poverty isn't going to dissappear overnight, but there's plenty we can all do to help tackle it.
We've provided free products for students on campus, but if you're in a fortunate position of not needing to use our free ones, why not donate to a food bank or homeless shelter so that those in our community can have a period with dignity?
There is still a taboo surrounding periods and the more we talk about them and are open about it, then the easier it will be for those who need to reach out if they're struggling. Maybe next time your period arrives, instead of saying "I've got the painters in" you can simply say "I'm on my period". Changing your language will help to breakdown the walls we put up to keep our periods a secret and means that people who menstruate can manage their periods without shame or embarrassment.
If you come across an empty menstruation station in an of our toilets, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get it sorted.