Ending the stigma

Photo: The Red Box Project

Can you imagine sitting in class at school, legs crossed, worrying about the fear of standing 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 during this time of the month but can be very expensive, especially for young girls and families who are faced with financial struggles.

Period Poverty. Not often spoken about. Very prominent problem.

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

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

This pressure from society has led many girls who cannot afford sanitary products to miss school and vital learning then face the possibility of shame.

However the project has grown and at the beginning of 2018 there were 32 active boxes within schools across the country, but by the end of the year there were 2100, with 300 volunteers helping with The Red Box scheme.

Holly Clarke runs the project for schools in Lincoln. She said: “Girls still have their education to get through and to thrive in and this is something that can really affect their ability to do that.

“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

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.”

Julie is trying to normalise periods to get rid of the stigma and embarrassment often felt by young people.

“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.”

As well as tackling the issue directly in schools the project teamed up with the #freeperiods and women’s rights campaigner, Amika George to launch 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.”



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