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Water & Sanitation

This MP Just Made History by Telling House of Commons She's on Her Period

MP Danielle Rowley just made parliamentary history after announcing to the House of Commons that she was on her period. 

It’s the first time a woman has publicly revealed in Parliament that she’s menstruating and, as well as being pretty cool, it's raising awareness of a pressing issue in Britain.

The Scottish Labour MP, who represents Midlothian, made the announcement during a debate on the cost of menstrual products, and the problem of period poverty in Britain. 

Take action: #ItsBloodyTime to Get Girls in Nigeria to School During Their Periods

Rowley said that her period had so far cost her £25 this week. 

“We know the average cost of a period in the UK over a year is £500,” she said. “Many women can’t afford this. What is the minister doing to address period poverty?” 

Scotland announced in May that it would give free menstrual products to low-income women, after a successful trial in Aberdeen last year. It’s estimated that the scheme will reach about 18,800 women and girls who simply can’t afford to have a period. 

And the UK government is under pressure to do the same. 

Read more: Scotland Will Give Out Free Tampons to Low-Income Women

It was revealed in 2017 that girls across the UK are having to skip school when on their periods, because they can't afford menstrual products — with many using wads of tissue, newspaper, or even socks and old clothes instead.

“It’s something that’s really important but isn’t really spoken about enough,” Rowley told the Mirror. “I think there is still a taboo. I talk about my period quite a lot, I will talk about it to male friends and colleagues, and generally it’s fine.” 

“But I think sometimes, if you are talking about it perhaps with older men or women, there’s a bit of ‘oh, why are you saying that?’” she added.

“I hope me talking about it in the chamber will help break down the taboo and help give women more confidence,” she said. 

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

In Britain, one in every 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products, according to research by Plan International UK, with reports saying that the average woman spends about £20,000 on them during her lifetime. 

Period poverty is an issue that negatively impacts women and girls around the world too, as an obstacle to education and employment. 

The UN children’s agency Unicef has estimated that one in 10 girls in Africa regularly miss school because of their periods. These girls can miss out on up to 20% of the school year and, in some cases, drop out completely after getting left behind their classmates. 

In Britain, 49% of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period — and, of these, 59% made up a different reason because of the taboo and stigma around talking about periods. Another reason why Rowley’s announcement was so important. 

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

Victoria Atkins, minister for women, said the government has invested £1.5 million in the project Let’s Talk Periods, launched by Plan International UK, Brook charity, Foyer Federation, and Centrepoint, which works to combat period poverty in the UK. 

“The government is committed to removing the VAT rate on sanitary products when we leave the EU, which will help with the cost,” she said. 

Atkins further said the UK was “watching with interest” to see the effects of the Scotland’s decision to offer free products in schools, colleges, and universities. 

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