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“Let’s Talk. Period.” Fighting period poverty through education with Brook
Mooncup are delighted to be supporting the Sexual Health & Wellbeing Charity, Brook with their latest project: “Let’s Talk. Period.” which intends to explore and tackle the problem of Period Poverty in the UK.
In this guest post, Molly Sutton and Rebecca Foster, Education & Wellbeing Specialists for young people at Brook, let us know how the project has been going so far…
Let’s Talk. Period.
Every day 800 million women around the world have their period, so why is menstruation often still shrouded in secrecy and shame?
The culture of stigma and taboo is having a devastating impact on the lives of girls and young women in the UK. Period stigma, combined with the high cost of period products and a lack of education has led to what is being described as a toxic trio of ‘period poverty’.
In order to tackle this, Brook is working in partnership with Plan international UK to deliver Let’s talk. Period – a project providing disadvantaged young people in the UK with free period products (including sustainable products) as well as education on menstruation, and tools to manage their periods. Full details of the project can be found on the Brook website.
Fighting period poverty through education
Our education sessions with young people last 1-2 hours and take place in various locations including schools, youth centres and supported accommodations. We also work with existing groups that support vulnerable young people such as young carers, young asylum seekers and those with mental health problems.
These sessions provide a really good insight into young people’s attitudes towards menstruation and allow us to bust common myths and answer questions. The sessions are always interactive and engaging – our period bingo has been a big hit!
Through speaking to young people about different types of period products, we’ve realised that more of them are aware of menstrual cups than we expected, but their views on using them are very mixed. We find that initially there is some hesitance from young people about trying them, but all it takes is for one person to show interest and often their peers will follow.
Young people seem to find the cost-effectiveness of menstrual cups particularly appealing, as well as their sustainability and low environmental impact.
Young people are also really surprised by the amount that a menstrual cup can hold, and the fact that they only need to be changed around every 8 hours.
We appreciate that menstrual cups aren’t for everyone, but it’s fantastic that through this project we can provide young people with one for free (along with sterilising tablets) so that they can experiment with what works for them.
Challenges and barriers to explore
One barrier that we have come across with some of the young people we’ve worked with is the concern that you can’t or shouldn’t use menstrual cups (or tampons) if you are a virgin*
Additionally, we must always take the young person’s living situation into account. We know that young people in supported housing may not have the privacy they want to sterilise a cup. Other sustainable products we offer through Let’s talk. Period are period pants (underwear with a built-in absorbent layer) and reusable pads (made of washable cloth).
Empowering young people
As well as providing free products, we empower young people with education about how menstruation works. This free handout is available to download from our website and can be used by anyone working with young people.
We also encourage young people to track their cycle by teaching them to use either a free app or our own free cycle and period trackers. There is no ‘average’ when it comes to periods, and actually having an irregular cycle is completely normal, so tracking your cycle is a really good way to understand your body. Equipping young people with these skills also allows them to identify when something is wrong and seek medical advice / support.
As we continue with the project, we look forward to revisiting the young people we have provided with free products to find out what has and hasn’t worked for them and how they are better managing their period. We’re also excited to find out the impact the P-Card has in terms of improved confidence and whether young people feel empowered to talk more openly about their periods.
A note on ‘virginity’:
*Brook advocates that virginity is something unique to every person and is defined differently by everyone – in other words, it is someone’s first significant sexual experience and is not necessarily penetrative sex. Virginity has often been linked with the breaking of the hymen (a small piece of skin that covers the vaginal opening) however, some people are born without hymens and for some it breaks long before their first experience of penetrative sex. Therefore, the idea that someone’s hymen will break and cause bleeding during their first experience of penetrative sex is not necessarily true.
Let’s Talk. Period is funded by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Tampon Tax Fund. The purpose of the Tampon Tax Fund is to allocate the funds generated from the VAT on sanitary products to projects that improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls.
Brook believes that all young people should have access to great sexual health services and wellbeing support. Founded by Helen Brook in 1964, the charity now provides free and confidential sexual health information and services to more than 235,000 young people nationwide every year.
Through the Brook’s clinical services in local communities, education programmes in schools, training for professionals and advocacy work, young people are better equipped to make positive and healthy lifestyle choices.
Find out more about the great work they do at www.brook.org.uk
Learn more about where the project is currently running via our charity support page.
Read more on the Mooncup Blog