Period necessity, not a Luxury

Back to all Motions

2019 National Women's Conference
16 October 2018
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that a motion on ‘period poverty’ was passed at the 2018 national women’s conference.

Conference is pleased that since then, Scotland and Wales have committed themselves to providing free sanitary products to schools. This is a very positive move and example.

However, conference feels this does not go far enough, we believe that sanitary products should be available to all. Free universal access to them is needed. These could be provided by collection from a pharmacy, the same way that children’s medication is given freely.

According to a latest research by Plan International UK, one in ten girls has sometimes been unable to afford sanitary products. One in seven has had to borrow tampons or sanitary towels from a friend because they couldn’t afford to buy their own.

Conference believes that period poverty is prevalent as some women are now turning to food banks for sanitary products. Homeless women, asylum seekers and refugees are particularly at risk.

Poverty is just one of the numerous issues that might affect a woman’s access to sanitary products. Very often, women suffer very many negative effect of being born female through no choice of their own. This can be as a result of:

• Finding the extra ‘housekeeping’ money to buy sanitary products;

• Embarrassment over raising the subject in company of others when there is a need to bring up an issue;

• The means, experience or maturity to handle the trauma of coping with heavy periods and ‘accidents’ at home, school, work, during any physical activity and socially

• Restriction of social activities as a means of coping;

• No female friend or relative to confide in or seek support and guidance;

• Extra cost of washing clothes and bedding and sometimes replacement when permanently stained.

Period poverty is not simply another aspect of poverty: it is a reflection of a society ridden with gendered inequalities. This is an issue that is slowly destructive. It disenfranchises and disempowers, affecting access to education and to opportunity.

For generations, women have been living without access to sanitary products because they can’t afford them, but period poverty isn’t going away on its own.

Access to period care is a basic human right, and considering that it affect half of the world’s population, it’s about time all women had access to free sanitary products.

Women already face so many challenges in achieving true equality in society, so it seems completely unfair that something as normal and natural as periods should hold women back further.

Cymru Wales Regional Women’s Committee believes that Conference should look to Wales for best practice. In March 2018 Welsh Government announced local authorities would receive £440,000 over the next two years to tackle period poverty in their communities where levels of deprivation are highest and £700,000 of capital funding to improve facilities and equipment in schools – ensuring that all girls and young women can access good sanitary facilities when they need them.

Welsh Government funding has been passed to local councils on the basis that they are best placed to know where to target effective action for tackling period poverty in their communities, which could be through community groups, schools or food banks.

Conference applauds the work undertaken by charity organisations such as Wings Cymru and the Red Box Project to provide free sanitary protection products in schools. However, whilst the work undertaken by these charitable organisations is applaudable, it is unacceptable that charitable support is required to bridge a gap in funding for sanitary protection products where they are most needed.

Despite Welsh Government commitment to funding, there remains a disparity across local authorities in terms of access to free sanitary products in schools and areas of high deprivation.

Conference therefore calls on the national women’s committee (NWC) to:

1. Continue to campaign to end period poverty;

2. Work with the National Young Members Forum to publicise the work of organisations campaigning to end period poverty;

3. Work with branches to raise awareness of this issue in workplaces and to seek ways to help.

4. Where sanitary protection is not provided by council funding, call upon Local Government Branches to work with local organisations such as Wings Cymru/Red Box Project to promote provision of FREE sanitary protection products in all schools.

5. Encourage Unison branches to set up sanitary protection donation/collection points.

6. To report back to National Women’s Committee on the progress of action.