It's been over four months since the Scottish government made sanitary products freely available in schools, colleges and universities; the Welsh government also made moves to tackle period poverty with a £1m fund in March. But young women and girls in England are still missing out on their education, and period poverty is far from over.
Now Amika George, the 19-year-old university student who founded the #FreePeriods campaign two years ago, is stepping up her fight to end period poverty in England. If you've never struggled to afford sanitary products yourself (or missed school or social events as a result), you may not be able to grasp the shame of having to improvise with socks and tissues each month. But a new video from the campaign hammers the reality home.
"I wrapped a sock around my underwear just to stop the bleeding because I didn't want to get shouted at," says one young woman. "I once Sellotaped tissue to my underwear because I didn't know what to do," adds another. "I wrapped a whole roll of tissue around my underwear just to keep it dry until I got home," recalls a third in the #FreePeriods clip, which gives voice to the real girls and women behind the statistic that a tenth of schoolchildren in the UK cannot afford period products.
The UK government announced last May that £1.5m of the money collected through the tampon tax would go towards tackling period poverty (and a small portion more will be given to women-only charities Rape Crisis and Women's Aid), which George describes as "a small victory". Now, she is campaigning for policy change.
Equal access to education is a fundamental human right and no one should miss school because they cannot afford pads and tampons.
"Equal access to education is a fundamental human right and no one should miss school because they cannot afford pads and tampons. These products must be provided for free in every school and college," say the campaigners on their crowdfunding page.
#FreePeriods is raising money for a legal campaign to ensure every child gets equal access to education and doesn't miss school because of period poverty. "We need funds to push forward this next phase and ensure that we present a robust legal case, so that not one child misses school because of their period. Funds will be used for exploratory legal work and in support of the broader legal campaign."
The group is being advised by the human rights team at the law firm Hausfeld & Co. and needs to raise £10,000 within 30 days in order for the pledges to be collected from donors.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said £1.68 million was currently available "to help distribute sanitary products to young women and girls in need across England."
They continued: “Our guidance encourages schools to help girls cope with menstruation and we are providing more than £2.4bn pupil premium this year to support schools in meeting the needs of disadvantaged pupils."
The spokesperson said the department was "continuing to look into this sensitive issue" and that schools themselves can make sanitary products available "if they identify access to products as a barrier to girls attending school."