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Water & Sanitation

Scotland Will Give Out Free Tampons to Low-Income Women

Scotland has announced that it will be rolling out a scheme to provide free menstrual products to women who can’t afford them across the country. 

It’s part of the Scottish government’s campaign against period poverty, with reports of women using tissue and even socks in an attempt to stop their periods from leaking. 

“It is unacceptable that anyone in Scotland should be unable to access sanitary products,” said equalities secretary Angela Constance, who made the announcement on Wednesday. 

Take action: Break the Silence on Menstruation

The charity FareShare, which also tackles food waste and hunger through food redistribution, will distribute the menstrual products. It’s estimated that the scheme will reach about 18,800 low-income women and girls. 

The rollout comes after a six-month pilot project was launched in Aberdeen in July last year, led by the Community Fund Initiatives North East (CFINE) social enterprise. The project has already handed out menstrual products to more than 1,000 women. 

It followed reports that emerged earlier in 2017 that girls across the UK were being forced to skip school when on their periods, because they couldn’t afford menstrual products. 

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

In Britain, 1 in every 10 girls has found herself unable to afford menstrual products and, with reports saying that the average woman spends about £20,000 on them during her lifetime, it’s not that surprising. 

Period poverty is a problem that’s experienced across the world, negatively impacting women and girls’ access to education and employment. 

UNICEF has estimated that 1 in 10 girls in Africa regularly misses school because of her period. These girls can miss out on up to 20% of the school year. In some cases, they get left behind their classmates and drop out of school completely. 

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 a different reason for missing school. 

Read more: Why Periods Are Keeping Girls Out of School — and How You Can Help

The scheme in Scotland was partly inspired by the 2016 film “I, Daniel Blake”, reported the BBC

The film, directed by Ken Loach, includes a scene where single mother Katie, played by Hayley Squires, shoplifts a box of tampons because she can’t afford to buy any. 

Ewan Gurr, a campaigner for the Trussell Trust, the UK’s leading network of food banks which also provides other essentials such as menstrual products, told BBC Radio Scotland last year: “Schools and colleges will provide condoms for something that you can abstain from, but you cannot abstain from having your period.”

“We need to find a way that we can provide for this issue right now,” he said. 

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

Monica Lennon, Labour member of the Scottish parliament (MSP) said Scotland should also have a statutory requirement to provide menstrual products for free in schools, colleges, and universities, and should place “a duty on the Scottish government to deliver a free universal system of access."

“Scotland can be a world leader in tackling period poverty if we are bold enough to take these radical steps,” she said. 

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