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Free sanitary products in Scotland: the latest in the war on Period Poverty
In a world-first scheme, the Scottish Parliament recently made available £5.2 million to enable schools, colleges and universities to provide free sanitary products to students. They have also made £500,000 available to provide free sanitary products for women on low incomes.
How does the Mooncup® come into this? Because as well as the conventional disposable products, this funding will allow menstrual cups and washable pads to be provided to those who want them too.
How the Period Poverty debate started
Period Poverty first hit the headlines in the UK back in 2016. In that same year it was Ken Loach’s award-winning film, I, Daniel Blake (written by Scottish screenwriter Paul Laverty) that put the issue firmly in the spotlight with a scene where one character is forced to shoplift sanitary products. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s a difficult but important portrayal of people’s experiences of the benefits system in the UK (with lots of warm, funny and rousing moments too).
Definitely worth a watch but never fails to make me cry.
Mooncup Ltd. has a long history of working with charities and NFP organisations to provide Mooncup® menstrual cups to hygiene projects internationally. Since 2016 we have been contacted by just as many organisations and individuals concerned with period poverty here in the UK.
Organisations like Every Month in Manchester and Bloody Good Period in London are just two examples of projects doing great work to provide period products to people who can’t afford them – you should check them out and support them if you can.
In 2017, Plan International UK conducted the only current UK-wide estimate of period poverty in the UK. Despite being the world’s fifth largest national economy, according to this report one in seven girls in the UK has struggled to afford sanitary wear, and more than one in ten girls (12%) has had to improvise with their menstrual products due to affordability issues. Read more here about Plan International UK’s Research into Period Poverty and Stigma.
Free sanitary products in Scotland – how was it achieved?
After months of lobbying by individuals and pressure groups, a bill on period poverty was proposed in the Scottish Parliament in August 2017. The Scottish Government then funded a 6-month pilot project in Aberdeen (Sept 2017-Feb 2018) exploring access to sanitary products.
This study focused on two groups: women on low incomes and students in full-time education (primary and secondary school, college and university). According to the evaluation on gov.scot, the pilot was run by Community Food Initiatives North East, who work with food banks in the area.
The full evaluation of the project is available on the Scot.gov website. It’s detailed, interesting and extremely readable, for everyone that wants to read the full details.
A matter of personal choice
Whilst reusables are a great option, we believe choosing to use a menstrual cup should be just that: a personal choice. Although uptake was slow, the evaluation of reusables in the pilot was encouraging (read more in section 3.4.4 of the report).
In August 2018 the Sanitary Products (Free Provision) bill was passed, and funding was made available for schools, colleges and universities, as well as third-sector organisations to provide these products across the whole of Scotland. The success of the scheme will be reviewed after a year, but we are thrilled that this world-first is happening right here in the UK.
End period poverty: what progress is being made?
This action was brought about by concerned citizens putting pressure on politicians, and we hope this pilot will inspire policymakers in other countries to think about putting similar schemes into practice.
This blog was fully written when we heard the news that the Scottish Government has announced another campaign, in association with Zero Waste Scotland, to reduce the waste generated by sanitary products and take action against ocean plastic. The UK government in Westminster has also announced funding to tackle period poverty in the UK.
I guess we’ll see more on this story as it develops. Whatever happens, we’ll be watching closely and championing this cause however we can.
Who is the Mooncup for anyway?
As a good little social justice warrior 😉 it makes me really sad every time I hear that the Mooncup is just for right-on middle class hippies, and “not something that would work around here”.
Aside from saving the world, I think my favourite thing about the Mooncup has to be how damn convenient it is, and I just don’t believe your postcode should stand in the way of having a period with minimal faff.
How to access free sanitary products in Scotland
FareShare will use their centres in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh to distribute products. You can find more information on the Scottish Government website.
Learn more about period poverty online
BBC Radio 1 have produced a short film about the grassroots activists fighting period poverty in the UK called Radio 1 Stories: About Bloody Time
Read the pilot evaluation on the gov.scot website
You can also read more about Plan International UK’s study on Period Poverty and Stigma.
Support your local campaigns
Bloody Good Period London
Red Box Project Nationwide
Pink Protest have a range of campaigns, from free periods to FGM to masturbation
Read more on the Mooncup blog