28th May: Menstrual Hygiene Day!
How many times have you rushed to the toilet in a panic when you’ve suspected that your period has reared its ugly head unannounced? How often have you inwardly cursed yourself for forgetting tampons and resorted to a flaky makeshift toilet tissue pad? Or covertly emailed your colleagues to see if they can help a sister out?
These are the inconveniences that people who can afford sanitary products face. Now think about the monthly discomfort and anxiety that periods mean for the homeless, and anyone who doesn’t have £3 to splurge on a box of luxury floral scented metallic pink applicator tampons (I’m looking at you, Tampax).
A study carried out for International Women’s Day found that in the last year alone, 137,700 girls have missed school because they couldn’t afford sanitary products. The report was based on a group of 500 girls between the ages of 10 and 18, 11% of whom stated that they’d resorted to using tampons for an unsafe amount of time, risking the development of TSS. This is a miserable reality, and yet another way that women are missing opportunities because of sociocultural failings.
No one, not homeless women, poor women, women seeking asylum or women in prison, should be forced to go without items which are essential to basic human hygiene. Hell, I’d throw Katie Hopkins a tampon if I had to (although I might throw it at her). Access to sanitary products is the kind of privilege which doesn’t even cross your mind until you’re caught short and riding the red wave without a surf board.
Menstrual Hygiene Day was founded by WASH United back in 2013, with the intention of ending period poverty and the stigma surrounding periods for good. They initially focused on the provision of sanitary products to less developed countries, but are now working with over 410 national and local partner organisations around the world!
There’s plenty you can do to contribute towards the menstrual care crisis right here in Leeds. Food-bank organisations like The Trussell Trust accept lots of non-food donations including household items, shower gel, shampoo, toilet roll and sanitary products. If you don’t have any of these things spare, you can make a monetary donation to start-ups like The Homeless Period, The Monthly Gift, or Bloody Good Period. Many of these organisations rely heavily on the help of volunteers, so if you’re able to donate your time, that’s invaluable.
On the 28th May, please do anything you can to help women have comfortable, dignified and crucially safe periods.