Ending the stigma

Photo: The Red Box Project

Can you imagine sitting in class at school, legs crossed, petrified to stand up in case of the humiliating judgement of something so natural.

Most girls get their period between the ages of 8 and 17. This is a natural process which is nothing to be ashamed of but 70% of girls admitted in a study by Plan International UK that they have felt embarrassed buying sanitary products.

These are necessities but can be very expensive, especially for young girls and families who are faced with financial struggles.

Clegg Bamber is one of the co-founders of the national Red Box Project. He said: “I think because there’s so much stigmatisation and taboo and it’s all sort of hush hush and no one mentions the P word, it was a sort of a suffer in silence issue.”

This stigmatisation has led many girls who cannot afford sanitary products to miss school and vital learning, rather than suffering potential embarrassment.

The Red Box is a discreet way for students to access all the necessities: pads, tampons, clean underwear and bags, so they can continue with their day, not letting their period affect them.

The project has grown massively, from having 32 active boxes in schools at the beginning of 2018, to having 2100 across the country by January 2019, as well as 300 volunteers helping the scheme.

Holly Clarke runs the project for schools in Lincoln. She said:

“We step in to fill a gap that government funding isn’t doing at the moment.”

Nine schools within Lincoln have all implemented a Red Box for their students and Priory Academy LSST is one of the most recent, introducing it in November 2018.

Photo: Sanitary Products, Sammy Ramsbottom

Julie Staniland, student welfare coordinator at the academy, said: “Although we have a reputation of being a very good school we do have a diverse student population so it’s making sure that we are reaching out to those girls who do need that support.”

“What I’ve done at the end of assemblies is to deliberately say the words period, tampon, and sanitary towels as many times as possible, to show that it isn’t embarrassing.”

The project have also launched a legal campaign.

Mr Bamber said: “We are calling on the government to comply with its obligations under the Equalities Act to ensure everyone has access to a free education as per a fundamental human right to education, of which period poverty is a barrier.”