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Period Poverty - tackling the stigma

Updated: Apr 11

Addressing the needs of young girls, women and any person who menstruates

Period poverty is a growing and concerning global issue that affects women and young girls across the world, and it is time that the stigma around periods is abolished.

What is period poverty?

Period poverty is the inability to afford or access sanitary products, as well as the inability to access menstrual healthcare and menstrual health education.

As we all know, periods come every month and period products are not free to all people who menstruate. Financial constraints mean that many women and girls cannot afford or access appropriate products and this has a knock-on effect to their lives.

There is a culture of embarrassment and shame around menstruation, it is not something that women talk openly about in conversation often, and young girls are not encouraged to be open about this natural biological process. The subject of periods is generally considered taboo. Heaven forbid if you mention that you have your period in a work environment or a social situation, the awkward silences (mainly from men) will fill the room and you will be forever tarnished with a blood red mark. All for daring to discuss one of the most natural bodily processes that occur in 50% of the world’s population.

Period poverty image shows a pink floral graphic in the shape of the female reproductive organs

Lack of access

The inability to access sanitary products can have a hugely detrimental effect on young girls and women. Girls are missing out on their education because they are skipping school due to a lack of access to period products.

New data collected by UK charities fighting period poverty – Irise, In Kind Direct, Cysters, Freedom4Girls and Bloody Good Period – have shown that every day students are missing out on school because of period poverty, shame and inequality. More than 138,000 days of school have been missed so far this academic year, and this increases every day. Nearly half of girls aged 13-18 reported difficulties accessing free period products at school, 24% felt too embarrassed to speak to their teacher when they had started their period and an astounding 61% reported issues accessing the toilet during lessons.

Schools have access to free period products through a government scheme, however, in some instances pupils will have to ask for these from the school office, which can be embarrassing for young girls, especially if they encounter a male staff member. The stigma around periods, leads young girls to finding it easier to avoid school altogether, or resorting to using things like toilet roll rather than ask for help.

Other groups of women and girls that experience difficulty in accessing period products and menstruation health care and education are those who are homeless, refugees or asylum seekers. Many of these women have no access to any sanitary products and don’t know how to access any form of free products in their area.

Women living with disabilities are also at a disadvantage when it comes to affording and sourcing appropriate period products, and a lack of education and consideration for young girls living with a physical impairment or intellectual disability has a huge impact on their lives. The physical aspect of using a tampon, pad or menstrual cup is not possible for many women and girls living with a physical impairment, so alternatives like period pants can be recommended, but more education around alternative and accessible products must be highlighted.


Occupational therapists are well placed to identify period poverty and offer help, advice and solutions to anyone who is struggling to manage their menstruation. Recognising period poverty in young girls and women who may be too embarrassed to ask for help or don’t know who to ask for help, can allow you to raise the issue in a safe and comfortable environment that can alleviate concerns and offer practical solutions to access period products.

We have put together a list of just some of the charities and organisations that could help anyone experiencing period poverty.

Bloody Good Period

This organisation fights for menstrual equity and the rights of all people who bleed. Their work includes delivering free period products to people who really need them, delivering education on sexual and reproductive health for those who can’t access it, and they fight to remove the stigma and shame associated with periods.

Freedom 4 Girls

This UK-registered charity is fighting against period poverty. They support in the provision of period products through donations and through the creation of washable, reusable pads. They also deliver holistic menstrual health and empowerment education workshops that provide positive reinforcement for young girl’s self-esteem and confidence when dealing with periods.


This stands for Wake Up Kick Ass, because this company believes that nothing should hold you back when you are on your period. They produce a wide range of period pants and swimwear that completely replace the use of tampons or sanitary towels. They have leak-proof layers that are uniquely breathable to reduce odour and keep you feeling dry for up to 12 hours. They are machine washable too.


This brand of period underwear have a wide range of leak proof pants that cater for different flows and different bodies. Their adaptive range features a side-opening making it far easier for wheelchair users and people with other physical impairments to put them on and take them off. It makes changing throughout the day simpler and more comfortable, with no worries of leaks or odours.

Irise International

A charity that is dedicated to empowering young people and ending period shame. They work with young people to affect change in national policy and practice by disrupting traditional power structures and questioning why periods have been ignored for so long.


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