Updated: Nov 2
What is period poverty?
‘Period poverty’ means being unable to access sanitary products and having a poor knowledge of menstruation often due to financial constraints.
In the UK, 1 in 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products, while 1 in 7 have struggled to afford them, according to a representative survey of 1,000 girls and young women aged 14-21 by Plan International UK.
In March 2017, Freedom4Girls found that students in the UK are missing school because of this issue. The charity provides access to safe menstrual products in Kenya, but their findings revealed that period poverty was an issue that also hit closer to home.
How does period poverty hold girls back?
Not having access to a safe and hygienic way to deal with menstruation can have profound consequences; particularly on a girl’s education. Research by Plan International UK found that 49% of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period. 59% of these girls have made up a lie or an alternative excuse to avoid going to school. 
Over the course of a year, 137,700 children in the UK miss school because of period poverty. Another problem intertwined with period poverty is the taboo surrounding menstruation, this can be particularly harmful to girls going through puberty. In a survey of more than 1,000 girls, nearly half were embarrassed by their period, many were afraid to ask for help because of the stigma and 68% said they felt less able to pay attention in class at school or college while menstruating. This stigma surrounding periods has been shown to directly affect a child’s potential to succeed.
Studies conclude that the knowledge of effective treatments for period pain is low; and girls with period pain experience reduced classroom performance and a lower level of class attendance. If a pupil misses school every time they have their period, they are set 145 days behind their fellow students. These findings led MSP Monica Lennon to call for sanitary products to be issued for free in schools, which was coupled with an increased focus across the UK on providing sanitary products to homeless shelters, local charities and food banks. In a massive step forward, in March 2019 the government announced a free sanitary product scheme across secondary schools and colleges in a bid to tackle period poverty.
The battle to end period poverty
While work continues around the globe to tackle period poverty with the provision of, and better access to sanitary products and improving understanding and awareness to break down the taboo that surrounds menstruation, here at The Colte Partnership, we are doing our bit across North East Essex to support those who struggle to access what they need. 6 of our 9 Branches now hold stocks of sanitary products that patients can ask for discreetly at reception: Ambrose Avenue (inc. Tollgate Branch), Riverside Healthcare Centre (Manningtree), Ardleigh Surgery, Walton Medical Centre, Colne Medical Centre and Wivenhoe Medical Centre.
NO APPOINTMENT IS NECESSARY AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A REGISTERED PATIENT AT THE PRACTICE. IF YOU, OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS AFFECTED BY PERIOD POVERTY, A RANGE OF SANITARY PRODUCTS ARE AVAILABLE FREE-OF-CHARGE.
Plan International UK Onepoll.com Plan International UK I. Thirza et al., ’ Primary Dysmenorrhea in Young Western Australian Women: Prevalence, Impact, and knowledge of Treatment’, Journal of Adolescent Health, vol.25, 1999, pp 40–45. Banikarim C, Chacko MR, Kelder SH. Prevalence and impact of dysmenorrhea on hispanic female adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154(12):1226-1229; Chiou MH, Wang HH. Predictors of dysmenorrhea and self-care behavior among vocational nursing school female students. J Nurs Res. 2008;16(1):17-25; Khamdan HY, et al., The Impact of Menstrual Period on Physical Condition, Academic Performance and Habits of Medical Students, Journal of Womens Health Care, 2014; Chia CF, et al., Dysmenorrhoea among Hong Kong university students: prevalence, impact, and management. Hong Kong Medical Journal. 2013;19(3):222-228