Scotland’s girl guides are set to join the country’s fight against period poverty, by collecting wash bags and toiletries for food banks.
The charity, Girlguiding Scotland, which aims to empower and inspire young women, will also be making sanitary towels and tampons available at local meetings.
It’s all designed to end the stigma of periods, and to support girls and women who literally can’t afford to have a period.
Labour MSP Monica Lennon launched a consultation last month on a Members’ Bill to end period poverty, after it emerged that girls and women were missing out on opportunities at work and school because they couldn’t afford sanitary products.
Lennon said that access to sanitary products is a “basic right.”
“I’m delighted to see Girlguiding Scotland joining the campaign to end period poverty and ensure no-one misses out on opportunities at work, school, or after school because they can’t afford basic sanitary products,” Lennon told the BBC.
“By making supplies available at unit meetings, collecting toiletries for their communities and talking positively about periods, they’re helping to tackle the stigma and end period poverty for good.”
It comes after a series of reports found that women and girls were using toilet paper and even socks as a replacement for tampons and sanitary pads, because they couldn’t afford proper sanitary care. Others were found to be missing school entirely while on their periods.
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Katie Horsburgh, 17, a Girlguiding advocate, said it’s time to understand that sanitary products aren’t a luxury.
“They’re an essential product and no-one should miss out on opportunities, face isolation or embarrassment simply because they can’t afford them,” she told the BBC.
“I’m proud Girlguiding Scotland members are speaking out and taking action to tackle the stigma around this important issue and make sure no-one is held back by period poverty.”
In July, a six-month pilot project was announced in Aberdeen, to help women and girls from low-income households receive sanitary products.
Last year, public schools in New York introduced free tampons and pads in all secondary school buildings following a successful pilot scheme.
Several countries across Africa are also using free sanitary products as a way to keep girls in school.
Earlier this month, Botswana’s parliament adopted a motion to provide sanitary pads for all school-aged women in the country; Kenya has also launched a similar programme; Zambia did the same in 2016; and the president of Uganda has promised free sanitary products, but has yet to bring it into practice.
One in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa miss multiple days of school during their period, according to the UN. Once they fall behind their male peers, it is hard to catch up and that can lead to higher rates of girls dropping out of school early.
Meanwhile, in India, many girls are forced to stay at home during their periods because their schools don’t have adequate toilet facilities, or they don’t have access to hygiene products.
Only 12% of India’s 355 million women use sanitary products, while 88% rely on alternatives like unsanitised cloth, ashes, and husk sand, all of which are unhygienic and can lead to infections.