Pin It
Josefinvia Unsplash

Finally! Free period products are now available to all schools in England

The move aims to ensure that no one is made to miss school because of their period and to eliminate widespread stigma

After years of fervent campaign, free sanitary products have finally been made available in schools across England in a bid to tackle period poverty. From today (20 January), schools will be able to order a range of products using an online system, in a move widely aimed at breaking down stigma and ensuring that no girl is made to miss school because of her period.

“We know that it is not easy for everyone to access period products where and when they need them. This scheme will deal with those problems so young people can go about their daily lives without getting caught out,” said Michelle Donelan, the children and families minister.

Speaking to Dazed last year, Amika George, whose campaign #FreePeriods sparked the movement for change in Britain, said: “Menstruation should never be a barrier to education, and providing schools with funding to enable pads, tampons and menstrual cups to be available for all will mean that all children can go to school without stress and with dignity, to be the very best they can be.”

The products available in the new program, which schools and institutions can opt into, include single-use and reusable pads, applicator and non-applicator tampons, and menstrual cups.

Recent research showed that while the issue is scarcely talked about, it is astoundingly widespread: one in 10 girls between the ages of 14 and 21 in the UK have been unable to afford sanitary products, while 49 per cent have missed an entire day of school because of their period. 42 per cent of 14- to 21-year-olds in the UK have been forced to resort to makeshift sanitary products, such as socks or toilet roll. 

Scotland implemented a similar policy in August 2018, helping 395,000 pupils and students “banish the scourge of period poverty”, the government said at the time. Wales brought in funding for free products in schools back in April 2019, while one local authority in Northern Ireland offers free products in public places.

While today marks a hugely significant step in the right direction, there is still work to be done when it comes to addressing deeply ingrained attitudes towards sanitary products, which are still classified as a non-essential, taxable, luxury item. “Women’s periods have been commoditised so much such that we have been conditioned to refer to our menstrual health products as ‘sanitary products’”, Victoria Abrahams, founder of Freedom4Girls, a UK-based charity tackling period poverty, previously told Dazed.

Orders from schools for sanitary products are expected to be delivered within five working days.

Watch Absent, a short film tackling the shame and ignorance surrounding menstruation here. If this is a cause you’d like to support, there are several organisations that work to combat period poverty, such as Bloody Good Period, a resource for asylum seekers and refugees, and The Homeless Period, a UK-wide project offering sanitary items to homeless women. No More Taboo is a worldwide organisation encouraging the use of sustainable sanitary products and running education programmes.