Wed, Apr 17, 2019 - Page 6 News List

England to give students free sanitary products

The Guardian

Girls in primary schools in England are to have access to free sanitary products from early next year, the government has announced, following a similar commitment to secondary-school students earlier this year.

The UK Department for Education has pledged to fully fund the supply of sanitary products in secondary and primary schools in an effort to eradicate period poverty, which results in girls from low-income families missing school because they cannot afford sanitary protection, according to campaigners.

A 2017 survey of 1,000 girls and women aged 14 to 21 carried out for the charity Plan International found that one in 10 had been unable to afford sanitary wear and 12 percent had been forced to improvise protection because of the prohibitive cost.

There have been reports of girls using toilet roll and even newspapers to manage their periods.

In schools, teachers who expressed concern about increasing signs of poverty among their pupils said they had paid out of their own pockets for tampons and sanitary towels for students because disadvantaged families could not afford them.

Announcing the move, British Undersecretary of State for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said: “This government is determined to ensure that no one should be held back from reaching their potential — and wants everyone to lead active, healthy, happy lives.

“That is why earlier this year we committed to fully fund access to free sanitary products in all secondary schools and colleges in England,” he said.

“After speaking to parents, teachers and pupils, we are now extending this to more than 20,000 primary schools so that every young person in all our schools and colleges gets the support that they need,” he added.

The department provided no details about costs, but it will be funded out of existing budgets and officials are working with stakeholders in the public and private sector to roll out the program “in a cost-effective manner.”

It follows the Scottish government’s funding of free sanitary items in schools, colleges and universities last year as part of a £5.2 million (US$6.8 million) scheme to fight period poverty.

Last week, the Welsh government also announced that free sanitary products would be handed to primary and secondary pupils across Wales in a £2.3 million scheme.

The move by the Westminster government was welcomed by campaigners.

“This is fantastic news and we’re so glad that the government has extended this pledge to primary schools. Period poverty should never be a barrier to education,” #FreePeriods founder Amika George said.

“With free access to menstrual products for every child in compulsory education, every student can go to school without the anxiety or stress of worrying where their next pad or tampon will come from,” she said.

“A third [30 percent] of girls aged 11-21 told Girlguiding they have missed school or college because of their period. That’s unacceptable,” said Isla, 19, a member of Girlguiding’s advocates’ panel.

“Every girl should have access to something so basic. Free menstrual products in primary schools will help make period poverty a thing of the past,” she added.

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