Following Phillip Hammond’s promise to ensure that young females who come from low-income families, and may be experiencing period poverty, will now receive free sanitary products within their secondary schools from September onward. As well as the most recent announcement that primary school girls will receive free sanitary products as of next year too, it seems that the government has officially taken its first steps in combating period poverty within the UK. This is huge and an important breakthrough in confronting menstrual inequality. However, the problem that still remains, is what exactly are we doing to help the homeless women of the UK who also experience period poverty?
From stomach cramps and mood swings, to blood flow, fatigue and headaches, monthly periods are something that most women wish they could just simply switch off. Periods for homeless women however, offer a far more troublesome and difficult obstacle to have to deal with. When it is often a question of choosing to buy either food or sanitary products, vulnerable homeless women must face a demeaning hardship for something their bodies cannot control.
It is difficult for us to think of tampons and sanitary pads as luxury items when they are in fact necessities, but for many women, that is exactly what they are. Homeless women do not have the same luxury of using the appropriate and hygienic products and as a result, their dignity is taken away. In their article, Bustle also explained that despite many shelters receiving donations, many women will turn down the opportunity of gaining free tampons or towels due to a lack of trust towards the safety of shelters.
So, imagine having to create some form of alternative product from newspaper or tissue just to gain a sense of dignity throughout your period. Imagine having no access to shower regularly or wash the little clothes you own, and the hygiene complications that could occur as a result of this. The problem being, that you can’t…We cannot even begin to imagine what homeless women must go through, but that does not by any means imply that we ignore it.
According to a Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary, during 2017-2018 within the UK, an estimated 68,000 women were either sleeping rough, in temporary accommodation or shelters. So why are homeless shelters not providing endless supplies of sanitary products? Why do shelters receive government funding for health products like condoms but not tampons? Why can many of the homeless that are addicted to heroin receive methadone under the NHS but not a simple pack of sanitary towels? This huge ‘why?’ highlights a subconscious ignorance that all people that are fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads can sometimes adhere to, myself included. However, it is about time we all started thinking about these women and give them the voice they deserve.
We can donate, campaign and petition. We can do it all, but most of all, we need to start talking about this problem and addressing the unnecessary taboo that surrounds period related issues. Many charities like The Red Box Project and PeriodPoverty are already working towards voicing the need for change, with leading sanitary product brands such as Bodyform also campaigning to ensure young secondary school girls do not go without supplies in silence. Yet, it still seems as though little is being said about homeless women.
The Homeless Period is one of the standout initiatives that has successfully campaigned and petitioned for period poverty specifically for homeless women within the UK. Their slogan, ‘it doesn’t bear thinking about…and that’s the problem’, acknowledges the weight of unfair opportunities that homeless women face due to living in poverty. We are all citizens for crying out loud, why must we not listen to what they have to say?
Please watch their video below and share their story to ensure that their message continues to reach others. You can also find your local food bank on The Trussell Trust website to support your local female community.
So continue to share, tweet and post about homeless period poverty to help provide a voice for the women who society fails to listen to.
#TheHomelessPeriod #EndPeriodPoverty #MenstrualInequality #GiveThemAVoice