Clare explains how female activists are working together to combat period poverty
At this year’s annual delegate conference, an emergency motion was passed calling for an end to period poverty across the UK. The motion, submitted by my DWP Greater Glasgow branch, was written on the back of Celtic Football Club’s decision to provide free sanitary product provision in football stadium toilets. Since then, 49 football clubs across the UK have followed suit. We felt that if male dominated spaces such as football stadiums could do it, so can our employer.
Since May 2018, a number of PCS activists have successfully campaigned for free sanitary provision at a local level. And on a recent PCS course I attended, ‘Women to the Front – the future of our union’ I had the pleasure of meeting some of them.
On the course, which was designed to equip female activists with campaigning, organising and leadership skills, we were asked to choose a campaign to take back to our workplaces and build upon. Our of 13 of us on the course, 11 chose to work on period poverty. Some of the group had provided business cases for the employer and even a cost estimation model. Another member of the group, who already had free products in their workplace, decided to campaign for the provision of environmentally friendly sanitary products including the ‘mooncup’ and ‘jam sponge’, the latter of which most of us had never heard of!
For me, this part of the course was incredible. There we were, a bunch of female activists sharing our ideas and building each other up as we did it. Some of the names of the campaigns were fantastic from ‘It’s bleeding time’ to ‘We bleed therefore we need’ and ‘For bleeding sake’. I found the whole experience heart-warming. I felt energised and invigorated. The work done by the group was phenomenal. It was evident that women work well together. We build each other up. Together we listen, and we encourage. We laugh together. We cry together. There’s a word for that: sisterhood. It is sisterhood that has got us where we are today in terms of challenging period poverty. It is sisterhood that got free sanitary products in 49 football clubs’ stadium toilets.
And while the campaign for free sanitary products is in the early stages, we have already come a long way from when the emergency motion was passed at annual delegate conference. More and more offices across PCS workplaces are beginning to implement free sanitary products. I also know that this is as a result of grassroots female activism.
I am confident we will achieve free sanitary products for all, both inside the workplace and beyond. We aren’t going anywhere. We won’t stop. Every time we get a win we are gradually making women’s lives that bit easier. The more we win the more we push. It’s time to shout a bit louder. It is time for PCS activists to send our employers and the government a clear message that we aren’t going anywhere, so they might as well just give us what we’re asking for.
To quote a sister from the ‘For bleeding sake’ campaign, “if we can’t get this basic human right sorted for women today then what message of equality and human rights are we sending to young girls tomorrow?”