Periods, poverty and perceiving empathy – Walker YA Blog Tour

blue cover artwork of don't stop thinking about tomorrow by siobhan curran

Today I’m sharing a guest blog by the lovely Alice from Reading, Writing and Blogging, in celebration of the recent release of Sibohan Curham’s new novel Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow*. We were invited by Walker YA to write posts relating to the central theme of the book, empathy, and to share them on each other’s blogs in the spirit of seeing things through somebody else’s eyes. Here, Alice shares her thoughts on period poverty, and how it’s shaped her views of the world.

“I’ve been asked to write about a topic close to my heart or something that I think we should be talking about more, with the theme of empathy in mind. At first, I struggled to think of anything to write about so, instead, I thought I’d write about a topic that has been on my mind lately. It is something that has caused me to stop, think and look at things from a different perspective; and, now it’s been brought to my attention, I’m surprised that it isn’t talked about more.

And that is period poverty.

I am obviously by no means an expert on this topic – except for the fact that I am someone who has periods – but this issue has struck a chord with me. When I was younger and still financially dependent on my parents, I think it was something I took for granted. That when Mum went shopping, I could just ask for what I needed. “Can you get me some Always please? The green ones with wings.” She always made sure I was prepared and, at the time, I was blind to the fact that other teens might not have been as lucky as me.

As an adult now, I feel sad that I didn’t realise this back then. I don’t think it was because I was necessarily insensitive or ignorant about poverty. I know I would have been outraged if someone had made me aware of the issue. I just think it’s because we didn’t – and still don’t – talk about periods enough, in general. And so all the issues surrounding periods don’t get talked about enough either.

First of all, sanitary products are expensive. Although not subject to full VAT, sanitary towels and tampons are still taxed as if they were non-essential items (the so-called tampon tax). Anyone who’s ever had a period – and there are obviously quite a lot of us – will tell you straight away that these products are a necessity, not an optional or luxury item in our shopping baskets.

quote reading "I just think it’s because we didn’t – and still don’t – talk about periods enough, in general. And so all the issues surrounding periods don’t get talked about enough either" - Alice (Reading, Writing and Blogging

I really admired Danielle Rowley MP standing up in the House of Commons last month and talking about her period, how much it costs and the issue of period poverty. She explained that the average cost of a period in the UK is £500 a year (I believe this figure also includes spend on other items, such as painkillers). And a study by Plan International UK found that 1 in 10 girls have at some point found themselves unable to afford sanitary products.

The idea of any young person not having access to the sanitary products they need makes me so angry. Even more so, the fact that teens miss out on education because of it. This is just unacceptable. And, of course, although I’m focusing on teenagers, period poverty can affect anyone at any age living in poverty while on their period.

I would love to see free sanitary products provided in all UK schools and colleges, following the Scottish Government’s lead. In the meantime, Always have launched their #EndPeriodPoverty campaign in March, where they are donating their products to UK schools. There are also charitable organisations that will accept donations of period supplies, including:

It really should be simple. No one should have to go through their period without the sanitary products they need. And no young person should have to miss school or college because they’re on their period.

Something we can all do – whether we can afford to donate to the above organisations or not – is talk about it more. Let’s talk about periods and period poverty with our friends and our families, in our schools and in the workplace, to end the taboo surrounding periods and raise awareness of period poverty.”

What do you think of Alice’s post? Can you relate to her thoughts, and have you experienced period poverty? Do let us know in the comments or on social media. Empathy is a quality that I value so highly, so I’ve loved this campaign by Walker YA and how it’s helped us to see the world through the eyes of each other. Don’t forget to check out Siobhan Curran’s new release, Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow*, and be sure to let me know what you think!

Links marked with * are affiliate links. I receive a small percentage in commission for any sales made through these links, at no extra cost to you!

4 Responses

  1. I completely agree! The tax on sanitary items makes me so angry! How can so many non-essential items be 0% taxed, yet tampons & pads be taxed at 5%! This includes “exotic meat” like crocodile & kangaroo – yuck!! This really needs to change!

    I know some big companies like Tesco are taking on the tax themselves, so they can reduce the shelf price, but lots of families don’t have the option to just “pop to Tesco” (e.g. if a store is not local, then it requires additional public transport or fuel costs to get there etc.).

    I personally believe that you should be able to access free period products, in a similar way you can access condoms.

    The taboo/stigma around periods as a whole is incredibly damaging in so many different ways. It must end!

    1. I completely agree Niamh- such an important discussion to be having! I’ve been looking into The Red Box Project since reading this piece by Alice, and it genuinely feels like a relief to know there are incredible organisations working to do something about it. Thanks so much for reading!

  2. Such an important post! I think that young women are definitely more aware due to recent campaigns – my 16 year old daughter has had talks at school to highlight the issue. But you are right that we need to keep talking about it – I am sharing a link to your post on my regular feature Monday Magic Inspiring Blogs for You! (on PainPalsBlog). good job, Pippa and Alice!

    1. Thanks for reading (and sharing!) Claire- completely agree that there seems to be more of a general awareness of the issue now, even compared to when I was at school myself. Hopefully things will only continue to improve, too!

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