Breaking ‘period poverty’ taboo

Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck
Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck

‘That time of the month’ for women and girls used to be one of those taboo subjects that were rarely talked about, but is thankfully more openly discussed in the enlightened society we are striving to build.

As a result some issues are being tackled, including one referred to as ‘period poverty’, which is said to force one in ten young women to miss school simply because they cannot afford to buy the sanitary products they need.

The Scottish Government has become the first to fund free sanitary products in schools, surely an example we should be following.

In our Wansbeck constituency an initiative known as the Red Box Project, which puts sanitary products into places of education, is being co-ordinated by Hollie-Scott Cape. Anyone wishing to donate items or money can visit the www.redboxproject.org/locations website.

Nationwide, the Unite trade union is demanding that all women and girls are afforded ‘period dignity’ by having access to sanitary products in workplaces, which is an excellent example of how a progressive trade union can bring about important change that could have an impact on the lives of so many women.

At the same time it is calling on the government to remove VAT on sanitary products to make them more affordable. Astonishingly, essential sanitary products are classed as a ‘luxury’ item for the purposes of VAT, which earns the Treasury around £1.5m a year.

Both the Red Box Project and the actions of Unite are something I wholeheartedly support, and I would urge others, particularly businesses, to follow the examples they are setting, as we have done in my own constituency office.

For as little as £7, a basket of free sanitary products and other essentials can be placed in staff or public toilets.

A simple and inexpensive gesture, which if repeated everywhere, could provide women and girls with the dignity they deserve at a time of the month when they need it most.