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Water & Sanitation

Girl Guides Across the UK Are Getting a 'Period Poverty' Badge

Girlguiding has decided it’s high time to spark a conversation about periods among its young members, showing them that menstruation isn’t something they need to be embarrassed about. 

And the charity is doing it by launching a “period poverty” badge, to raise awareness of the fact 1 in every 10 girls in Britain have found themselves unable to afford sanitary products. 

The organisation’s Advocate panel — all aged between 14 and 25 — was inspired by the Period Poverty campaign launched by Girlguiding Scotland in September 2017, which is now being rolled out across the rest of the UK. 

Take action: Menstruation Is Not a Disease

“When we heard that period poverty is something that affects so many young women, we knew this had to change,” said the panel in a statement. “There are some amazing campaigners already working towards ending period poverty, including in Girlguiding Scotland — and now we want to act.

“We believe that periods are normal — not embarrassing!” it added. “We want period products to be accessible for anyone who needs them. They aren’t a luxury but an essential — just like toilet roll.”

The national campaign, launched on Thursday, has three main calls. 

First, it wants dedicated funding for schools, colleges, and universities to provide period products. Second, it wants to change the language used to talk about menstruation, to cut out euphemisms

Read more: 12 Weird Euphemisms People Use Around the World Rather Than Just Saying the Word 'Period'

The organisation said that “language is very important in contributing to and tackling stigma and shame around periods,” and that by using euphemisms to discuss menstruation it “makes them seem like something that should be secret, hidden away, and never mentioned.”

Its third call is for all pupils to receive the same information about periods and what to expect during puberty in schools. 

In Britain, 49% of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period, according to research by Plan International UK. Of these, 59% gave an alternative reason for missing school.

“We believe that enough is enough and it’s time for us, as young women, to help challenge the misconceptions and to try and make period products available for everyone,” one member of the Advocate panel, Kim, 17, told Girlguiding. “Toilet roll is provided in toilets, so why can’t period products be available in the same way?” 

Read more: Scotland Becomes the First Country to Offer Free Tampons to Low-Income Women

“If girls and women are made to feel ashamed of something as normal and necessary as a period, how can we ever achieve true gender equality?” she added. “Periods are not something we should be ashamed of or made to feel bad about, they are a natural bodily function. We shouldn’t have to hide period products in an effort to be discreet, feel embarrassed about purchasing them, or not be able to afford them at all.

“Today, as we strive for gender equality and the movement working towards this is so visible and important, it’s time to recognise the challenges that still surround periods for many people,” she said. “Whether it’s shame or stigma, price or pressure, many of us have suffered as a result.” 

In order to earn their “period poverty” badge, girls will have to complete a series of tasks designed by the charity WaterAid. These could reportedly include using drama to deal with situations, like what to do if your period leaks while you’re away from home; and creating presentations to explain to an alien what a period product is. 

Read more: There's a Fresh Controversy About How Tampon Tax Funding Was Handed Out

The badges also look really cool (we’d definitely wear one) and are decorated with images of tampons, pads, and menstrual cups. 

The Period Poverty campaign also asks members, if they are able to, to collect period products to be donated to local food banks to go to those who can’t afford to buy them. 

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