The hidden side of poverty

period poverty

Poverty, alongside topics like coronavirus, Trump and climate change, is a pretty constant topic across the media these days. We endlessly debate the ethics of allowing children at home and abroad to go hungry or what society can do about homelessness or the highly visible need for food banks. But one area of poverty we rarely hear about and consequently regularly overlook is that of ‘period poverty’.

According to the UN, economic disparities mean that women globally have a higher chance of living in poverty than men at all ages. They also face multiple forms of discrimination, and face increased risks of violence as a result of their poverty. In the UK, the same holds true, women have a higher risk of poverty than men.

If you’ve stopped at a UK service station at any point in the last couple of years there is a high degree of likelihood you’ve seen posters in the ladies loo about a young woman who has fled war, famine and rape and who now has her period. It is immediate and real and it’s happening on our neighbours doorsteps; and yet’s it’s immediate, real and happening right on our own doorstep too.

In 2017 Plan International undertook a survey into Period Poverty in the UK, of the 1,000 girls who took part they found:

  • 1 in 7 struggled to afford sanitary products like tampons or towels;
  • 1 in 7 borrowed products from a friend because they couldn’t afford to buy them;
  • Girls regularly miss school because of their period and because they have no sanitary products.

For me poverty like this is defined as ‘what is more important’ – food on the table or sanitary products; I believe any sane person would choose food of sanitary products and that’s the point. If it comes down to a choice like that and you were forced to make it, which would you choose?

There are however some simple steps those of us not facing such drastic decisions can take:

  1. If you’ve had a hysterectomy consider donating any unwanted sanitary products to your local women’s refuge, hostel or school;
  2. If you regularly donate to the local food bank, consider substituting a packet of tampons every now and then instead;
  3. If you’re employer is one of the many who put out free sanitary products in bathrooms, why not find out who is organising it and help to keep them stocked up.

Let’s face it, poverty is bad enough facing it when you’re bleeding and in pain just adds an extra dimension to the challenge and could be enough to push some women over the edge!

Image by Irina Ilina from Pixabay


  1. I don’t think we realised how many school girls were suffering. As an early starter I was chronically embarrassed going in a shop to buy the items, poor Mum had a tight budget, but there was never any worry we couldn’t afford sanitary towels. Some shops have a red box like our local Coop where you can donate items.

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