LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More must be done to dispel the shame and ignorance surrounding menstruation in Britain, charities said on Wednesday, after the government promised free sanitary products in English schools.
Britain’s finance minister Philip Hammond told parliament the government would fund free sanitary products for school and college students across England after teachers raised concerns that some students were skipping class during their period.
Awareness of “period poverty” is rising globally - the latest move comes days after Meghan Markle made headlines when she became the first British royal to speak out on the issue at an event marking International Women’s Day.
However, charities said providing free tampons and pads was not enough.
“Free products won’t solve things if girls are too embarrassed to talk about their periods or don’t understand how their bodies work,” said Lucy Russell of children’s charity Plan International UK.
“We urgently need education and training for girls, schools and parents to help tackle the stigma around periods.”
A survey by Plan International found that 10 percent of girls in Britain alone had been unable to afford sanitary products.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which works to solve poverty in Britain, also said the move did not go far enough.
“The chancellor is right to recognize that people going without essentials such as sanitary products is morally unacceptable,” said executive director Claire Ainsley.
Earlier this month Britain launched a global period poverty fund and taskforce to help all women and girls access sanitary products by 2050.
Half of all women and girls in poor countries are estimated to have to use rags, cloths, grass and paper during their periods since many cannot afford to buy sanitary products.
Menstruation is still taboo in many countries. In Nepal, the centuries-old Hindu practice of “chhaupadi”, where women are banished from their homes during their periods, has led to four deaths since the start of the year.
“No student should miss out on their education because they can’t access period products. Ending period poverty will empower girls everywhere,” said Laura McClinton of Girlguiding, a British charity for girls and young women.
The government’s measures will take effect from the start of the next school year in September 2019.
Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org for more stories.