We owe it to our sisters to tackle period poverty

PCS members and many others are being forced by poverty to choose between food and sanitary products. Clare McInally, DWP Greater Glasgow branch women’s officer, calls for a cross-civil service approach to ensure women in every workplace can access free sanitary products.

I proposed motion A296 on period poverty, passed at annual delegate conference this year which highlighted the campaign work done in Scotland and to insist on a cross-civil service approach ensuring that women in every single workplace have access to a supply of free sanitary products. The motion also proposed legislation that would mirror that of Scotland, to ensure schools can issue free sanitary products.

We all welcome the Scottish Parliament’s recent decision to legislate to ensure all schools are legally obliged to provide free sanitary products, a decision that was taken after relentless campaigning by women’s rights groups.

The struggle against period poverty has recently taken another massive step forward. Celtic Football Club has recently taken the decision to provide free sanitary products for fans. This is as a result of a campaign set up by three football fans, all of whom are working class women. This is the first football club in the UK to install free dispensaries in the stadium toilets.

Let’s not underplay the significance of this; if a football club can do it, so can your employer.

We have members who use foodbanks. We have members who have, at times, had to choose between food and sanitary products.

Forced to go without

In a recent study, more than a fifth of parents admitted to have gone without something, often food, so they could buy products. Many admitted to stealing the products from shops, but, in my opinion, there can be no theft of something that is a fundamental human right.

A recent study suggests that around 138,000 girls have truanted from school because they can’t afford sanitary products

11% of schoolgirls were found to be putting their health at risk by using tampons longer than necessary because they didn’t have the supplies.

It is thought that a quarter of all school girls in the UK have at some point been forced to use toilet paper, tissues, cotton wool, socks, t-shirts or other items of clothing to soak up their blood.

Can you imagine the impact this has on our little sisters who are already facing abject poverty and, all too often, don’t even know where their next meal is coming from?

This is the sixth largest economy in the world and there is no excuse for our children losing out on their education or food when the government could be providing free sanitary products.

Our little sisters are not responsible for soaking up the blood on their hands.

After the decision by the Scottish Parliament, and one of the major football clubs in Scotland, PCS members at conference have also now agreed to work on the issue of period poverty by passing motion A296.

We owe it to our sisters, not just in the membership, not just in the wider trade union movement but to our sisters across planet earth.

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