Nearly a third of women and girls aged 14 to 21 have had problems being able to afford or access period products during lockdown in the UK, new research shows.
The survey from the global children’s charity Plan International found that out of the 30% of young women and girls who have struggled to access period products, 54% had to use toilet paper as an alternative.
But due to shortages in stocks of toilet paper during lockdown, 20% said their periods were now even harder to manage.
While Plan International praised the“groundbreaking progress” on period poverty after sanitary products were made freely available in schools and colleges in January, the charity warned that this progress is under threat of being rolled back due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Schools and education centres have been closed to pupils, except for the children of key workers, since 23 March — and are reportedly unlikely to open until at least June, or potentially not until September, after the summer break, for all pupils.
“We have heard so much about access to toilet roll in this pandemic, but we have heard very little about girls and young women being left without period products – even though they too are absolutely essential,” said Rose Caldwell, the chief executive of Plan International UK.
“These stats should serve as a real eye-opener to the problems girls are facing up and down the country.”
Plan International is calling on the government to not allow the progress on the issue to stall as the country looks to ease up on the lockdown measures.
More details from the report show that of the 17% of girls and women who said that they couldn’t afford the products, 37% did not try to access any free sources, while 42% said they didn’t know where to find them and 30% were too embarrassed to seek out alternative sources of free products.
The decision to get period products into schools for free came about from various nonprofits and campaigners, including 20-year-old activist Amika George, who started campaigning for the provision in 2017.
We have been listening to girls in lockdown across the UK 📢— Plan International UK (@PlanUK) May 7, 2020
Our new research shows barriers to girls’ rights ‘exacerbated’ by coronavirus crisis.
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She told Global Citizen in 2019 that she was shocked that 1 in 10 young women couldn’t afford period products in the UK and that it was causing girls to skip school.
“People associate period poverty with other countries, but it’s happening here [in the UK] … It horrified me that the government wasn’t acting on it,” George said.
However, the COVID-19 crisis is making period poverty worse all over the world, too. Caldwell said the economic setbacks affecting all areas of society as a result of the pandemic may make sanitary products even less affordable and accessible.
“Lockdown has exacerbated the already prevalent problem of period poverty in the UK, and we have heard from girls we work with from Kenya to Nepal that this is being reflected across the globe,” Caldwell said.