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We Are Not OVARYacting

Did you know that since the coronavirus pandemic, the number of girls in the UK who struggle to afford menstrual wear has increased to 30%?

Image this... you are in secondary school, in a class of 30 pupils, 15 girls and 15 boys, 5 of the girls are absent today because they are menstruating and cannot afford sanitary wear. Don't you think that in any society, on any continent, that this is a disgrace?

And yet we see it on our doorsteps in "Great!" Britain.

Poor access to period products is a serious concern to many women today. A fact that can only be described as a terrible social injustice.

  • human rights

  • access

  • participation

  • equity

Activists have been fighting to achieve social justice for women for years. Emily Pankhurst lead the suffragette movement, which sparked the beginning of women being able to express their voice. In spite of this progress, women still face many social injustices today. This article focuses on the detrimental impact on women, caused by the restricted access of sanitary products.

The problem is 'period poverty'

Period poverty is when those on low incomes can't afford, or can't access suitable period products.

Many women and girls around the world are living without safe and affordable sanitary products, due to having low incomes. This deprivation is putting their physical and mental health at risk.

Physical health risks of poor menstrual hygiene include fungal infection, urinary infection, and vaginal yeast infection.

However, the challenges that menstruators face encompass more than the lack of and affordability of supplies. In many societies, periods are constrained by cultural taboos and discriminatory social norms and beliefs. These views include the idea that women are impure, dirty and sinful while they are menstruating, even though it is a healthy and normal part of life.

For generations, this social and economic inequality, forced upon girls and women, has negatively impacted their health, safety, education, opportunities, and development.

The impact on lives

Unfortunately, many menstruators miss out on enriching life experiences, due to not being able to afford or access sanitary products. Don’t be misled into thinking that this is solely a third-world problem. In actual fact, It is estimated that currently over 137,000 young girls across the UK, have missed school days due to period poverty. These young women can’t concentrate on schoolwork or their well-being, as they have to worry about where their next tampon or pad will come from.

Research by Attendance Works shows that missing just 2 days a month at school can drastically affect a student’s success. These unwelcome interruptions negatively impact school grades, putting these young women at a disadvantage. Crucially, at the stage in their lives when they are transitioning from childhood to adulthood with all the responsibilities that brings.

Imagine this… sitting in an exam hall, silent, the question in front of you is about that topic you missed the day you didn’t attend due to period poverty, and another unknown topic and another one. Before you know it you’ve failed the exam and can’t progress into the next year, with the rest of your school cohort.

Interruptions to education can affect students on many levels and for many years, whether it be the case that target grades were not achieved or whether resits are required. This can impact progression onto higher education and future career opportunities. One must also consider the negative impact on levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Current action that is being taken

In 2020 Scotland became the first country in the world to make sanitary products free for all.

This breakthrough piece of legislation set an example to the rest of the world on how to combat women's injustice, whilst complying with the United Nations sustainable development goal 16.

To create peace, justice and strong institutions.

Mind the gap!

From this development, leaders around the world are recognising the positive impact that providing sanitary products can have. In order for women to excel, their basic needs must be met. Societies that encourage women to excel are laying strong foundations for success on the international stage; whether the subject is international business or world politics, related negotiations will always benefit from a woman's intuition.

Even knowing this to be a fact in 2022, the human race still has a long way to go, in order to achieve a level playing field for men and women. One only has to look at the ratio of men to women on the international stages of politics and business to see the gap.

What now?

Other countries need to raise the bar and capitalise on the momentum initiated by Scotland, to finally 'mop up!', this seriously detrimental social injustice. I ask you to visualise a world where sanitary products are available to all, at no financial cost and in which all women can avoid this fundamental obstacle when reaching for their dreams.


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