According to the Huffington Post , Scotland has responded to a ‘period poverty’ by providing free sanitary products to women with low incomes. There will be a six month scheme that will provide free sanitary products for low income households in Aberdeen. MoneySavingExpert recorded that eligible women are issued ‘S-Cards’ to display to at their pharmacies for free products.
It was only recently that it as been recorded by the The Independent that girls from low income backgrounds are skipping school during their periods out of fear of embarrasment as they cannot afford sanitary products in Scotland and England. The Independent was also told by an 11 year old pupil that she missed school once per month due to her period. Though, does this go deeper than simply the cost of sanitary products? One must comment upon the ever (and seemingly never ceasing) stigma around periods. There is a shame and certain embarrasment that is often coupled with experiencing one’s period. Especially at a young age, at school. The fear of leaking, the shame in speaking about it. A prime example of this stigma can be illustrated via a supposed ‘period censorship’. For example, poet, Rupi Kaur’s instagram photo of her during her period was removed by Instagram (according to The Independent).
During secondary school I witnessed this stigma firsthand. My friends who were in the student leadership team asked our headmaster of the time to do an assembly around the topic of periods to discover disposal habits for a project in collaboration with a local water company, and he swiftly declined due to the fact that speaking about periods was such a taboo. The topic of the assembly was centred around the reduction of blockages caused by some sanitary products that are bad for the environment, which can consequently hinder British taxpayers. Through this simple example, one can witness just how such stigma around periods can be seen to be a hinderance to the economy and environment alone. In my secondary school, there was not even bins in every single cubicle in the toilets, which is now unsurprising as I reflect upon the latter example. Especially considering we’re supposed to be in a country of progress. After all, there are endless examples across the world of the easy disregard towards the menstrural cycle, and there are examples worse than what I experienced. According to Dignity Period, In some parts of places such as Southeast Asia and Africa, there is no access at all to any sanitary products for women to use.
Issues concerning the global stigma around periods can be exhibited in an essay for TIME. Meghan Markle, American actress and humanitarian, once penned an essay entitled “How Periods Affect Potential” for TIME. At the heart of her essay was the restriction of education due to such stigma around menstruation. She speaks about the “shame-filled reality” in India for young women due to this “taboo” around periods that they “quietly endure”. That when a girl misses school due to their periods, they are set behind their male classmates by 145 days. It appears that loss of education due to the natural monthly event that happens to young girls and women is preventing potential in many different areas of the world. Gladys Muthara (from Kenya) for TIME accounts her experience of not recieving her scholarship because she only managed to answer a few questions during her interview that determined her continuation of secondary school due to her period. Muthara describes how “drop by drop” of her blood made her more nervous as she only had a few “scraps” of “cloth” to prevent leakage over the “17 hours” that it would take to “cover travel time” and time to complete her tests. Meanwhile, according to The Independent, a school in Leeds, England, had truancy figures that illustrated the issue concerning the stigma around periods and economic restrictions for those unable to afford sanitary products.
In allowing low income earning women to have access to free sanitary products, it can be seen that Scotland has signalled some form of progress. Perhaps a break in the stigma around periods, to an extent. It is undoubtedly a step forward in the right direction. However, there is still so much to be done on a global scale. All women deserve free access to sanitary products. It is arguably fundamental considering menstruation is so natural. After all, many of us get free contraception to prevent pregnancies. Essentials should not be categorized as a luxury. And menstruation should not be seen as synonymous to humiliation.