On Wednesday night, hundreds of scarlet-studded activists strutted their stuff outside Westminster, London, in protest for #FreePeriods.
The movement, founded by 18-year-old campaigner (and our new champion) Amika George, was held in protest to end period poverty, inspired after reading an article about a group of girls in Leeds who had to miss school because they couldn’t afford sanitary products (read the article here).
Amika, alongside Grace Campbell who is the co-founder of the Pink Protest, held the demonstration opposite Downing Street (did you hear us, Mrs May?) where hundreds rallied together to support the movement.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan UK, Amika said:
“I kept re-reading the article because I couldn’t quite believe it wasn’t referring to another country. It described how poverty was so rife and so crippling in some parts of the UK that children were using socks stuffed with wads of loo roll stolen from public toilets, or with newspaper, or torn up clothes.
It literally sent a shudder through me, because having a fully stocked cupboard with period products was something I’d taken for granted, pretty much since I began my period.
The thought that girls were missing out an education and the opportunity to achieve their ambitions, not to mention the lack of dignity and social isolation that comes with it, because of something so natural and normal really angered me.”
Joining Amika in protest was a cast of celebrities/activists including Suki Waterhouse, Adwoa Aboah, Daisy Lowe and Aisling Bea, who all called for Mrs May to step up, do the right thing and provide free sanitary products for girls that receive free school meals.
Giving girls the right to free menstrual products isn’t a new topic, in fact, only a few months ago London protested against #TamponTax.
The government has said that it has invested already more than £11bn to help schools support disadvantaged pupils, but it seems that this particular issue just hasn’t been that high on their radar – luckily, we were there to remind them.
Free the Bleed
According to Plan International UK, 1-in-ten girls cannot afford to buy sanitary products – this means that there are an unacceptable number of young girls out there who every month are suffering in silence and stuffing their knickers with tissue paper because they have no other choice.
And for a country that prides itself on being ‘developed’, that is simply not good enough.
Imagine having to live in a constant state of paranoia, worrying that at any moment you’re going be leaking in front of your peers and there’s nothing you can do about it.
This is the reality for many young girls in school, who are essentially being systematically punished for their biology, being denied the most basic of rights – the right to dignity.
And its not just a case of “come on sanitary towels are only a pound strewth [sic]” as one ill-informed troll tweeted me.
The truth is that I’m happy that you think that £1 is nothing to pay for sanitary protection – I’m happy that you have never had to encounter that humiliating feeling of not being able to afford a pad/tampon/mooncup, or have been put in a situation that calls for you to pick between education and self-esteem.
But the fact is that many young girls face this awful decision daily, and it needs to stop. And for those who agree with this person, maybe you need to check your privilege and realise that not everyone shares same financial situations.
Affording sanitary products is not a luxury, it is not something that you are meant to earn.
#FreePeriods matters because it gives girls back their dignity.
#FreePeriods matter because bleeding is not a taboo.
#FreePeriods matter because these young girls need our support.
And we’re here to make #FreePeriods happen.
Amika, we salute you.