Thousands of women and girls across the country are being forced to rely on food banks, charities and other community organisations to cope with their monthly periods – but the real number could be much higher.
A RightsInfo investigation reached out to more than 500 organisations across the UK, including charities, food banks and homeless shelters, to see how many women they provide with sanitary products each month.
Of the 89 organisations which responded to our request, the total added up to more than 5,800 women collecting products every month. However, since many charities did not store this kind of data, the real number could be much higher.
A further 75 groups said that while they did provide sanitary products to women, they were unable to estimate how many women used the service as they kept no records, while a Channel 4 Dispatches programme recently found as many as 68,000 women were living on streets, in temporary accommodation or emergency shelters.
‘Not a Surprise’
Gabby Edlin founded Bloody Good Period to give sanitary products to women in need. Image Credit: Jem Collins / RightsInfo
Speaking to RightsInfo Gabby Edlin, founder of Bloody Good Period which distributes products to 1,200 asylum seekers and refugees every month, said the figures were “no surprise”.
“We live in a structurally sexist society and women’s needs inevitably get tossed to the bottom of the pile,” she added.
This isn’t a huge surprise. For those struggling to make ends meet, food banks are a lifeline in helping these women retain some dignity every month. I suspect we’ve only skimmed the surface in estimating just how many women are affected
Amika George, Period Poverty Campaigner
Amika George, a period poverty campaigner, also reiterated that these numbers probably “only skimmed the surface in estimating how many women are affected”.
Though it’s impossible to rule out some of the 5,855 women receiving sanitary products each month returning to the same food bank twice in one month, statistics from The Trussel Trust show people will on average only return to a food bank twice a year, suggesting the demand for sanitary products is sustained.
The figures come just days after the Labour Party pledged to provide free sanitary towels to secondary schools, homeless shelters and food banks.
The Green Party and Liberal Democrats have already made the commitment in their 2017 manifestos, while the SNP has launched a pilot scheme in Aberdeen to provide free pads to women and girls in low-income households.