Periods. Everyone’s talking about them! Meghan Markle made headlines earlier this month when she became the first British royal to speak out about menstrual issues at an event on International Women’s Day. The documentary Period. End of Sentence. recently won an Oscar for best short documentary, following a group of Indian women fighting the stigma surrounding menstruation and learning to manufacture their own sanitary pads.
Last year Scotland unveiled £5.2m scheme to help ‘banish scourge of period poverty’ and became the first country to provide access to free sanitary products for students at schools, colleges and universities. Similarly, the Welsh government committed over £1m to help address period poverty in communities and improve school toilet facilities.
And just this month, England have announced that they too will be tackling period poverty in schools. In a budget report on Wednesday last week, Finance Minister Philip Hammond announced the following:
“In response to rising concern by headteachers that some girls are missing school attendance due to inability to afford sanitary products, I have decided to fund the provision of free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges in England from the next school year.”
The ‘some girls’ he mentioned refer to the more than 137,700 students who missed school in 2017 due to period poverty. A survey of 1,000 girls and women aged 14 to 21 by Plan International also found that 10 percent of girls in Britain alone had been unable to afford sanitary products.
In Australia, things aren’t any better. We’ve heard anecdotes from girls all over the country about struggling through their periods at school and desperately needing support. Over and over, we keep hearing that students would rather use toilet paper than ask a teacher for a pad or tampon. This is not okay.
Nor should it be up to teachers to personally provide this support. We’ve heard shocking accounts of teachers having to buy these sanitary products for students out of their own pocket. There needs to be a systemic change. And it needs to happen now. The world is waking up to the seriousness of period poverty and how it’s affecting girls’ education. It’s about bloody time Australia did the same.
We recently created a petition calling on state and territory Education and Health Ministers to provide free menstrual products in school bathrooms across Australia so that every student can feel safe, supported and able to focus on their education.
So far, nearly 2000 people have signed the petition, including several teachers and doctors who know the realities of this issue first hand. Here’s what people have been saying:
“As a former secondary teacher I know how embarrassing and isolating menstrual experiences can be for young girls, especially those from migrant backgrounds and poor homes. This is a small gesture to keep these girls engaged with their schooling. Just do it!” – Annette
“As a teacher, I often buy sanitary products for my students whose families struggle to afford them. I, and my students and their dailies unequivocally support free sanitation products in school bathrooms.” – Fiona
“As a GP, I hear lots of sad reports from girls and young women who have been without period products at school. I fully support this initiative.” – Rebecca
“Anything that facilitates the regular attendance of girls at school is a worthwhile investment in their and our nation’s future.” – Jane
“For some girls, having access to menstrual products would be life changing. It cannot be underestimated.” – Ruth
Life changing. That is the urgency that the Australian government needs to acknowledge. Not next year, not next month – now. It’s clear that this issue is close to the heart for young people all over the world. And we’re thrilled to see so many countries throwing their support behind period power. We’re determined to make Australian ministers stop and listen. And we can’t do it without you.
If you agree that it’s #AboutBloodyTime Australia gets with the times and provides free products for students, then sign the petition today!
Sign the Petition
Maddy is the Rosie Editor and regularly writes for the Rosie Blog. She is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality.