According to research conducted by the global health and hygiene company Essity, approximately 22% of UK students face challenges in accessing basic menstrual protection. The study involved 2,500 parents of girls aged 8 to 18 who menstruate, and they reported that they cannot always meet their daughters’ needs during menstruation.
Of those surveyed, 34% stated that their daughters went to school without the necessary materials, while 14% took days off to avoid uncomfortable situations. This amounts to 108 hours of missed classes for each affected girl aged 12 to 18.
Among the girls who can attend school during their menstrual period, 19% depend on the availability of free products such as external and internal sanitary towels, but 29% mentioned that the school their daughters attend often does not provide menstrual protection.
In addition to external and internal sanitary towels, 21% of respondents said they sometimes do not have the money to buy toilet paper at home, and 44% reported that their daughters often complained about the lack of toilet paper at school.
In this context, Essity is actively collaborating with Tesco and the charity organization “In Kind Direct” in their campaign against hygiene poverty, donating essential hygiene products, including menstrual pads from their Bodyform brand to charities across the UK.
“Whilst many of us are feeling the pinch at the moment, most are still fortunate enough to afford every day essential hygiene products. But for many, affording items like period products and toilet paper has become impossible”, said Gareth Lucy, UK and ROI Communications Director at Essity.
He also added, “In Kind Direct has brought together some of the biggest hygiene product manufacturers in the world alongside Tesco who together will donate over a million essential items to charity.”
“We hear heart-breaking stories from our charitable network on a weekly basis about families using rolled up socks as period pads, as they can’t afford to buy these items as budgets are so stretched,” stated Rosanne Gray, CEO of In Kind Direct. “That’s why we’re working with our long-standing partner Essity to help get essential period products into the hands of people who need them,” she added.
The research revealed that 26% of students have had to improvise and resort to alternatives to menstrual protection. 84% of girls have used toilet paper instead of pads, 24% have used kitchen paper, and 21% have increased their personal hygiene by washing more frequently.
Additionally, 20% of girls have had to resort to using napkins, 19% have changed their clothes, and 18% have folded their underwear. Among parents who cannot afford menstrual hygiene products, 45% have sought help from family and friends.
Of all the respondents, only 73% of parents stated that they can always provide sanitary pads to their daughters during menstruation.
Throughout the country, people living in Birmingham, Liverpool, London, and Manchester face the greatest difficulties regarding access to menstrual protection, with 25% in each case. Furthermore, 23% of children living in Leeds, 21% in Sheffield, and 16% in Leicester have experienced periods of menstrual poverty at some point.
Despite many families being able to provide essentials for their daughters, even those who can afford monthly protection, 23% know others who cannot. Among those who are aware of the difficulties faced by their children’s friends, 87% have provided them with sanitary pads because they lacked the means to purchase them. On the other hand, 42% of them have contacted the children’s school to raise awareness about the situation.
“It’s unforgivable that in 2023 we have girls missing school and therefore missing out on critical education because they can’t access the necessary protection during their period,” said the Essity director. “We’ve been donating 1.2m pads per year since 2017 but the problem is getting worse and more needs to be done.”