Illustration Art Work with Girls promoting sanitary products
08 May 2019

APPG on PDRH shares Penny Mordaunt MP’s take on Period Poverty in the UK

Penny Mordaunt MP announces government scheme to tackle period poverty across the country.


On the 24th of April 2019, Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women and Equalities shared a written statement in which she updated on the Government’s response on Period Poverty in the UK:“I wish to update the House on the activity that is taking place to end period poverty and ensure that every woman and girl in our society can access the menstrual products they need. This is a complex issue and its causes are not restricted to poverty. Charities and businesses are leading impressive initiatives around the country to change old-fashioned, uninformed attitudes to menstruation and break down taboos. We have been consulting with these organisations and are also writing to all members of this House to ask for their help in identifying good practice and further partners around the UK.”Over the last few years the UK government has been developing a bid to tackle period poverty both at a national and international level after worrisome statistics on period poverty had emerged.

As our member’s Plan International UK’s 2017 research on period poverty and stigma showed, in the UK:

  • 1 in 10 girls have been unable to afford sanitary wear;
  • 1 in 7 girls have struggled to afford sanitary wear;
  • More than 1 in 10 girls has had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues;
  • Nearly half (48 per cent) of girls aged 14-21 in the UK are embarrassed by their periods
  • Almost three quarters (71%) of girls admitted that they have felt embarrassed buying sanitary products;
  • 49 per cent of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period.

The stigma surrounding periods has been shown to directly affect a girl’s potential to succeed. If a girl misses school every time she has her period, she is set 145 days behind her fellow male students.

Overall, over 137,700 children in the UK have missed school because of period poverty.

As a response to this issue, on the 4th March 2019, the UK launched global fund to help end 'period poverty' by 2050. The government pledged to give 2 million pounds ($2.64 million) to organizations working to end period poverty globally and has also earmarked 250,000 pounds to create a taskforce of government departments, charities and private enterprises to tackle the issue.

As Mordaunt wrote“The taskforce will launch in June and will bring together a range of different organisations working on period poverty from across the public, private and third sectors. Its objective will be to join up learning and ideas and develop a comprehensive, sustainable response. By linking different sectors, it will build on the range of diverse initiatives that already exist, promoting those which are delivering impact, and helping them to grow and become sustainable.We need much better evidence and understanding of how period poverty affects different groups in our society. Therefore, improving the data in this area will be an issue the taskforce will tackle as a priority. Addressing stigma will be another main area of focus, given the shame and taboo that still exists around periods. The taskforce will consider the role of education, communications and role models in shifting social attitudes.”

In addition to this, as Penny Mordaunt MP stated: "The NHS England announced that women and girls in hospital will receive free sanitary products on request from this summer. The Home Office has also announce that police forces are set to provide menstrual products to female detainees if required, free of charge. The intended changes will be brought into effect when the revised Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 (PACE) Code of Practices have been laid in Parliament."

Later on in April 2019, the Welsh Government announced that it would make sanitary products available to school girls for free. As many as 141,000 girls attending both primary and secondary schools in the country will benefit from the free menstrual products as part of the £2.3m scheme.

The Welsh government's project follows last year's Scottish government’s announcement of a £5.2m scheme to fund free sanitary items in schools, colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, on April 16th, it was further announced that free period products will be offered to girls in all primary schools in England from early next year.

Lucy Russell, UK Campaign Manager at Plan International UK, said: “We hope this welcome investment of resources will be used to address not just access to products, but the issues at the root of this problem – high-cost period products, lack of education and the stigma and shame that surrounds periods.“Period poverty is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality and can have a serious impact on girls’ education. It’s therefore critical that efforts to tackle it are linked in with wider education programmes on sexual and reproductive health.”

Finally, Poverty Mordaunt declared: “I would like to pay tribute to all those working so tirelessly to tackle period poverty and shame both in the UK and around the world. We look forward to helping their good work scale and reach every woman and girl in need.”

Photo Credit: Perry TomKievicz