There's a huge misconception that the vast majority of bloggers - or social influencers if you are feeling fancy - are from middleclass to wealthy backgrounds which simply isn't true. I have no idea why we still insist on referring to a dated social construct that enforces limitations and passé attitudes to categorise someone's earnings; I don't care how much you pull in per annum nor how you spend it, and you shouldn't either. I grew up with a single mother and a lot of siblings, money was tight but we never ever went without: be it clothes, food or any other general necessity which surprisingly includes sanitary products...
In the last week I have talked myself into and out of typing up this article more times than I dare to count (I often worry about being self indulgent) - sanitary products aren't something most of us talk about on a daily basis for many reasons: shyness, shame (not everyone is as comfortable talking about periods, for me this is something that came with age) and because frankly they are not on the forefront of your mind - unless in use that day or within the foreseeable future; even then if you can afford to replace your towel/pad/cup/whatever several times a day, you are probably comfortable and secure, so again it isn't a huge issue. I get it, I honestly do. I've had a few period mishaps like the majority of us - bled through white trousers, ruined sheets, the lot - but never due to lack of funds have I ever had to consider where my next pad or tampon is coming from; others are not so lucky and one specific demographic - though not any more or less important than anyone else in need - may just shock you.
A few days ago I had an early morning business meeting and as it was only a few train stops away and with people I know very well, I left my handbag at home and only popped the absolute necessities into my coat pocket: lipstick, train fare, my phone and some loose change. En route and to pass the time, I scrolled through my twitter feed and Lex (a really great and truly lovely beauty blogger) had flagged up a newspaper snippet that truthfully shocked me to the core. Essentially young girls in Britain (and most likely elsewhere too) from low income families are often skipping school due to a lack of sanitary protection. Periods are trying enough: back-pain, nausea and generally feeling like crap without the added stress of not having adequate enough product - if any at all. I've since read that some young ladies are taping toilet tissue to their underwear, using pads and more worryingly tampons for far longer than deemed healthy or simply going without and as such skipping school for up to a week at a time.
I fully understand that it can be argued that on any given day, millions of other women are in a similar position for whatever reason and that too is not right. I think the reason this is so hard hitting and prompted me into action there and then, is that I can recall being so self conscious in high school whenever my period would arrive: "am I leaking?", "can anyone see my pad?", "do I smell?" and all the other teenage worries I had, that I can't fathom how stressful it must be to study and have the added worry of knowing that once a month, you may have to skip school because of something that is beyond your level of control. I read a misguided comment about the issue that suggested the solution would be for such young ladies to get a job and become self sufficient, which admittedly may be an option for some but what about those who are too young to be employed, or those who have other commitments such as young careers et al? The fact of the matter is education is of the utmost importance, it opens doors to a future of self reliance and opportunities, something as natural as a period can not be a stumbling block...well in the very least, in an ideal world it wouldn't be.
I commend brands such as Bodyform (who have donated no less than £1million pounds worth of sanitary products to charities within the UK since 2011) who have recently pledged to distribute 200,000 packs of pads to the cause by 2020, here is hoping that other brands follow suit and sooner, rather than later.
A few days ago I had no plan, I got off the train a stop early and waltzed into my nearest Supermarket and bought all the feminine hygiene products I could with the loose change in my pockets - which was just short of £10. Such small amount, surprisingly goes far: ten packs of maxi pads (30p per pack of 10) and four boxes of tampons which I have now dropped off at my local food bank to which I was told it is a much needed category of product but one that is seldom donated. Again I fully understand: pads and tampons have no use by date, as such you are far more likely to hold onto any spare or multi-packs for future use, rather than the ready to expire tins of soup and noodles - it's economical and makes perfect sense.
I still have no real, big plan so at the moment, once a week I go to my local Pound Shop and purchase 10 packs of pads in various absorbencies (most sell Always, Bodyform etc) and donate them to my local Food Bank. I also pick up a few packs of Supermarket branded sanitary products and pop them into the in-store Food Banks with each visit - every little helps.
I obviously do not know what every local Food Bank or Woman's Shelter currently requires so I do suggest that if this is something you want to contribute to, that you Google both terms locally and see what is required and what not. I'm not entirely sure how or what but I will be working on something for initially the Glasgow area so if anyone at all wishes to get involved, please feel free to reach out.
On a wider and often global scale, brilliant charities that help those in such predicament are:
Freedom4Girls - raises funds and products for young ladies in both Kenya and the U.K.
The Homeless Period - as the name suggests helps women who are homeless and without sanitary protection.
Bloody Good Period - and a bloody good charity too: this group collects all forms of pads, towels and cups for asylum seekers, refugees and anyone who is need and can't offer such products.
Flow Aid - mainly to source such items for homeless women.
Give and Make Up - They help women escaping violence and domestic abuse.
This has to end. Sanitary products aren't a luxury they are a necessity. Period.
Please feel free to use the comment section to highlight any other charities, trusts or organisations fighting such problem be they here in the UK or globally.