Period poverty is globally a very real problem, and it’s something that isn’t talked about nearly enough. Studies show that in the UK one in ten girls have been unable to afford sanitary products, and one in seven girls (14%) have had to borrow sanitary products from a friend due to financial issues. It’s not right that women of all ages are having to struggle, at arguably the most unenjoyable time of the month, just to get by. While this is a world-wide issue waiting to be solved, there are many campaigns both nation-wide and closer to home trying to make a difference. Unstoppable is one campaign in Cheltenham that’s working hard to try and make a real change to people’s lives in our area.
It’s been estimated that a woman can realistically spend up to £130 a year on sanitary products, and while this works out at just over £10 a month, talking about the real price could be missing the point slightly. Whatever the real price of sanitary products is, there are still women and girls up and down the country unable to afford products as a basic living item and being forced to go without, often taking time out of education and off work.
Sanitary products are classed as a ‘luxury non-essential item’ in the UK and are subject to 5% tax. While Tesco, Co-op and Waitrose have all removed the tax and pay it themselves for the customers, activists have been campaigning for years to make sanitary products tax free and more affordable. In 2004 Kenya became the first country to ban tax on sanitary products and Australia followed suit, scrapping tax from Jan 2019. If stamps and bicycle helmets can be exempt from tax in the UK, then surely it’s time sanitary products are as well.
Until period products are made free and accessible to all, there are many charities and campaigns trying to overcome the issue, Action aid and The Red box Project being two very big organisations, but there are also more local campaigns closer to home. Unstoppable is a local campaign developed by Gloucestershire council to help combat period poverty in our area. Unstoppable provide free Tampons, pads, towels and menstrual cups across Cheltenham at multiple easy to access distribution points.
The UOG’s student union is proud to be one of these distribution points and has products available in both the SU store and at campus reception. These products are displayed discreetly, with bags to take things away in, and are available for anyone struggling to take whatever they need. Whether you’ve been struggling every month or have just been caught out, the aim is to help anyone and everyone in their time of need.
If you would like to give back to the campaign donations of products can be given to the SU where they will be sent to Unstoppable to go through checks and then be redistributed around Cheltenham.
It’s time to end the taboo around periods and sanitary products and ensure that everyone is provided the help and support they deserve.