LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Every student in Scotland will be offered free sanitary products in a drive to tackle “period poverty” in a country where almost one in two girls has resorted to using alternatives such as toilet roll, socks or newspapers, the government said on Friday.
Scotland said it was the first nation in the world to make tampons and pads free for all school pupils, college and university students - estimated to number about 395,000.
“In a country as rich as Scotland, it’s unacceptable that anyone should struggle to buy basic sanitary products,” Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said in a statement as the project was announced ahead of the start of the academic year.
“Our 5.2 million pound ($6.6 million) investment will mean these essential products will be available to those who need them in a sensitive and dignified way, which will make it easier for students to fully focus on their studies,” Campbell added.
About 45 percent of girls in Scotland have had to use toilet paper or other alternatives during their periods because they could not afford to buy sanitary products, according to research published in March by the children’s charity Plan International.
Across Britain, the problem affects one in 10 and has grown in line with the number of poor and the use of food banks, Plan said.
A British maker of sanitary products - social enterprise Hey Girl - this month placed adverts in newspapers featuring a cut-out “make your own” pad in a push to raise public awareness.
“By funding these products and putting them alongside other everyday items ... in public toilets, like toilet roll and hand wash, it takes away the shame that girls tell us they often feel,” Plan UK spokeswoman Lucy Russell told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We now need to see governments tackle the third part of the toxic trio that causes period poverty – lack of education,” Russell added. “Investment in teaching girls how their bodies work and what a healthy period looks like is absolutely key.”
Scotland’s North Ayrshire Council last week become the first local authority in Britain to make sanitary products free in public buildings - via vending machines in toilets.
There is also legislation pending in parliament that would create free provision across Scotland.
In many countries, menstruation is considered shameful.
Globally, 1.25 billion women do not have access to a toilet during menstruation, says the charity WaterAid. Some girls miss classes during their periods and eventually drop out of school.