It’s a new year, which means we’re turning a new leaf, and teenage activist Amika George has challenge for policymakers in the UK: make menstrual products free in schools.
The 19-year-old founder of the #FreePeriods campaign announced the launch of a new legal effort “to make sure no child misses school because they can’t afford pads or tampons” in op-ed for the Guardian on Tuesday.
Together with the Red Box Project, a nonprofit, and the Pink Protest, an activist organization, George’s #FreePeriods campaign has also set up a crowdfunding drive to raise money in support of a legal case to support free menstrual products for students who need them in England.
George first heard about period poverty in the UK from a news program and was shocked to learn that many girls in her country were going to school using newspaper and socks instead of pads, or skipping school altogether, she told People in September.
“People associate period poverty with other countries, but it’s happening here [in the UK] … It really horrified me and it horrified me that the government wasn’t acting on it,” she said.
She knew she had to do something about it, so she started the #FreePeriods campaign in April 2017. She organized a protest attended by more than 2,000 people on Downing Street — home to the Prime Minister’s official residence — that December. She also started a Change.org petition advocating for free period products to be given to girls who qualify for free school meals, which has gained more than 200,000 signatures.
Exactly one year today, 1000s of us stood together at the #FreePeriods protest, calling on the government to provide free menstrual products in schools. We are still waiting for long-term change to end period poverty. We need to raise our voices even louder. Join #FreePeriods!!! pic.twitter.com/yiiUihBpr6— Amika George (@AmikaGeorge) December 20, 2018
Despite her youth, George has emerged as a prominent and passionate voice of the movement to end period poverty in the UK where one in 10 young women cannot afford period products, according to nonprofit Plan International UK.
George was named one of Time’s “25 Most Influential Teens of 2018” and won the Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers Campaign award for her work, but she’s not done fighting yet.
“Last year was named the ‘Year of the Woman’: we celebrated the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote in the UK … and we saw the extraordinary force of women protesting against sexism and advocating for women’s rights across the world,” George wrote in the Guardian.
“We need to make 2019 bigger and bolder,” she wrote. “ I am starting with an attempt to make sure that every child in the UK has the right to participate in their education, unencumbered by their biology.”