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2023 National Women's Conference
13 October 2022

Yorkshire & Humberside Regional Women’s Committee believe free, community-based provision of sanitary and incontinence products should be available for all women and girls.

A 2022 Action Aid UK Survey, as part of the Menstrual Hygiene Day; showed that in the UK 12% of women are now struggling to purchase sanitary products. They are now using less healthy alternatives such as toilet paper, washing rags (sometimes without adequate washing facilities) or not changing products as regularly as they should, putting them at risk of toxic shock syndrome and/or UTIs. The financial situation of women is, as we all know being increasingly impacted upon by the cost-of-living crisis.

Incontinence Products are a much less discussed problem but can be equally as distressing and as big a health risk to women. Many women suffer the impacts of incontinence following a recent birth, as a result of health issues or as a side effect of the menopause. The personal products used can be very expensive and women can be purchasing these at the same time as sanitary products for themselves and their daughters.

Provision should be guided by the following principles:

• Protecting people’s dignity, avoiding anxiety, embarrassment and stigma

• Making a range of products available in places people use

• Obtaining free period products should neither be complex or bureaucratic – products should be reasonably easy to obtain

• Respecting individual choice and cultural needs by providing a range of products that meet personal preferences

• Promoting gender equality by ensuring anyone who menstruates can access products, including transgender men and non-binary individuals, and that language is gender inclusive

• A response that is reflective of communities’ views and needs

• Promoting reusable products to encourage a shift away from single use plastic products and to reduce period plastic waste

• Awareness raising and education to promote the offer and attempt to change norms

We therefore call on the National Women’s Committee to work with the wider Unison structure, including the Labour Link Committee, together with external bodies as they see fit to lobby the National and Devolved Governments and Opposition Parties to fund the free local provision of these products, in line with the principles listed above, as soon as practically possible.

(We recognise that free sanitary products are currently available in Scotland but at the time of writing free incontinence products are not.)