The charity Freedom4Girls have said that girls in the UK are missing school because they cannot afford sanitary protection after they were contacted by a school in Leeds who were concerned about teenage girls' attendance. The charity normally focuses their efforts providing products to girls and women in Kenya but are now doing the same thing in Leeds.
After the findings were published, the BBC spoke to a number of teenage girls. One of them said: "I wrapped a whole tissue roll around my underwear, just to keep my underwear dry until I got home. I once scellotaped tissue roll around my underwear. I didn't know what else to do. I kept this secret up until I was 14 years old and then I started asking for help. I didn't get any money because my mum was s single parent and she had five mouths to feed, so there wasn't much left over money in the pot to be giving to us." As a result, this girl had started to take a few days off school every month.
Another teenager said: "When I went on my period, I started taking time off school, because I didn't know what was actually going on with my body. That made my attendance really low and I was getting in trouble. One day the teachers came to my house and asked why I'm not at school and they actually took me. I thought it was only happening to me... So I was scared and I wanted to stay at home."
Tina Leslie, a public health worker in Leeds and part of Freedom4Girls told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour: "I wasn't shocked at all. We ha an idea that there was something happening in schools. It's linked to poverty- 250,000 visits to food banks in just Leeds last year. We need to give these girls dignity back. It's happening in other schools. Teachers have told me they are buying towels to have just in case. If you're hoy no goof, you've got no money for sanitary protection. If you have a mum with two teenage girls, that's a lot of money each month when you're on zero-hours contracts, benefits or low income. It's the working poor that we are looking at."
Conservative MP Jason McCartney has since said that he will raise the issue in Parliament and wants to enlist other MPs to help start a campaign for free sanitary products for young girls in need. Labour MSP Monica Lennon is calling for sanitary products to be given out free in Scotland, telling Woman's Hour: "We are trying to establish a principle here, that this is a health issue. If you go to a food bank or homeless shelters, they know people who are having to go without."
There are places to donate sanitary products in the UK if you want to help (and I would encourage you to if you can!):
The Monthly Gift (Manchester based)
Campaign increasing donations of sanitary products to charities helping the homeless and those in poverty.
Bloody Good Period
Collects period supplies and toiletries for refugees and asylum seekers.
The Homeless Period
Needs donations of money or tampons for those women living on the streets.
Food banks also accept them.
When I read this story yesterday I couldn't believe it, how is it possible that in this day and age, in such a rich and powerful country, girls are forced into this position? Not only can they not access basic sanitary products but they are also left totally in the dark about what their bodies are going through, this to me, highlights are huge gap in the syllabus at schools. Every single month our bodies bleed and there is nothing that we can do about that. But we should not be embarrassed of it, or ashamed of it and we DEFINITELY should not be missing out on our eduction because of it.