The poorest pupils in the UK could receive free tampons and sanitary towels at school, according to the Education Secretary, who revealed she is considering the measure. At present, many students are forced to miss school because they can’t afford sanitary products, a problem known as “period poverty”.
The charity Freedom4Girls, which provides sanitary products for women in Kenya, recently appealed for further research into the issue in the UK. It said it had been contacted by a school in Leeds which was concerned about some teenage girls’ poor attendance during their periods, because they couldn’t afford sanitary products.
At the time of writing, more than 44,000 people have signed a change.org petition showing support for the #PeriodPotential campaign, which is calling on Education Secretary Justine Greening to force schools across the UK to provide free sanitary products.
When asked in Parliament whether she would ensure that recipients of free school meals, the lowest income students, would receive free sanitary products, Greening said she would “look carefully” at the proposal, The Independent reported.
"It's deeply shocking in the 21st century that girls, including in Leeds, are not going to school because they can't afford sanitary products," said Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West, during education questions in the House of Commons yesterday, reported the Times Education Supplement.
To which Greening replied: “I think you have raised an important issue and it's one that I will look at carefully and write to you about.”
It follows the recent announcement by Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokeswoman, that she hopes to make it law in Scotland to require schools to provide free sanitary products to students and staff.
One teenager, who started her period when she was 11, told BBC Radio Leeds she “wrapped a sock around” her underwear to stop the bleeding because she “didn't want to get shouted at”. She continued: “And I wrapped a whole tissue roll around my underwear, just to keep my underwear dry until I got home. I once Sellotaped tissue to my underwear. I didn't know what else to do.”
She kept it secret until she was 14, when she decided to start asking for help. “I didn't get any money because my mum was a single parent and she had five mouths to feed, so there wasn't much leftover money in the pot to be giving to us."