COVID-19 & The Impact On Period Poverty.

Period poverty is having a harsher impact than ever before. Young girls are growing up in a world where essential period products are out of their financial grasp.

By Caitlin Purvis.

Period poverty is having a harsher impact than ever before. Young girls are growing up in a world where essential period products are out of their financial grasp. This was the case prior to COVID-19, and it most certainly is the case now during the outbreak.

It’s no lie that Covid-19 has been difficult for everyone. However, studies have shown that young women are disproportionately affected by health emergencies. In addition to the impact Covid-19 has had on their mental health, period poverty is also on the rise.

Prior to the outbreak, Plan International UK announced that 1 in 10 teenagers are unable to afford sanitary products. Since then various charities have worked to overcome the financial barrier between affordability and menstruation.


What is period poverty?

Video by BBC Three.

One way of understanding the hardships of period poverty is by discussing the ‘toxic trio’. This refers to the following.

  • A lack of vital education about periods, sex, and relationships within schools.
  • The cost of sanitary products, and the availability of alternative products.
  • The taboo and stigma surrounding menstruation.
Financial barriers.

In relation to the financial aspect of period poverty, governments have lately come under fire for tampon tax. This refers to the profits from the VAT charge of 5% applied to sanitary products. While this might be significantly less than the standard 20% VAT, there’s still dispute over whether we should be paying tax on these products at all.

Stigma and education.

In addition to government policies and financial strain, work must be done to dismantle the stigma surrounding menstruation. Work is also needed to educated young people about menstruation and a healthy reproductive system. Sadly, even in the 21st century many still don’t have access to such education.

As a result, young people across the world are growing up unable to afford essential items. Furthermore, they’re made to feel ashamed about their bodies and remain undereducated about menstruation and healthy reproductive systems.


What progress has been made and what’s still to be done?

The classroom is one of the key places for building an understanding of menstruation. The UK government has already announced plans to introduce a thorough curriculum on relationships, sex, and health education.

In April 2019 the UK Government announced its commitment to providing free sanitary products across England’s schools by early 2020. The Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, covered some of the key concerns for period poverty campaigners. She outlined the move as a step towards enabling young people to meet their full potential, while also leading happy, healthy lives.

“Covid-19 has stunted this positive educational movement.

Due to school closures, many vulnerable young people will have missed out on essential parts of their education this year. One of the more concerning areas that they may have forgone is sexual education. As stated menstrual health education is vital, and many may have missed out due to the ongoing pandemic. Without proper menstrual education, young people will suffer more than necessary due to fear, confusion, and lack of knowledge about their period. They may also suffer at the hands of period stigma without the proper education to break the taboos. Many teenagers feel that there’s something wrong with their bodies and fall into the trap of feeling ashamed of menstration.

Image from Pixabay.

With COVID-19 in mind, schools have had to adapt and find new ways to offer sex education to their pupils by moving to an online platform. Thankfully, the NSPCC has published resources, guidance, and training to aid teachers in these classes. Brook has also created an e-learning platform that offers free training to adults working or living with young people. They cover topics such as puberty, sex, relationships, and mental health.

Schools are also introducing relationship education to primary school students later in the year. Further education on relationships and sex will be compulsory in secondary schools also. Both changes are due to begin in September 2020, however this is uncertain due to the impact of COVID.

The Impact Of School Closures.

Overall we’ve made impressive progress over the last few years in regards to period products. The government has introudced free sanitary products in schools across England and Scotland. However, as a result of Covid-19 many of these are now closed or have been servicing a reduced number for the past few months.

With many young people relying on their schools to provide them with sanitary products (as well as menstruation education), the closures have made sourcing essential products more difficult than ever. One report found that 1 in 10 girls have found it difficult to access or afford period products during lockdown. A further 1 in 10 were worried about leaving the house for their daily exercise in case of leaking. This has been made more difficult for those who require organic cotton tampons for heavy periods as they can’t afford basic products, let alone those specific to their cycles.


How has Covid-19 impacted people’s finances?

Finally let’s discuss how the impact on finances caused by COVID contributes to period poverty. As of the 18th of May, the share of people financially impacted by Covid-19 reached 24%. Many businesses have faced turmoil, leaving a vast amount of employees unemployed or furloughed at a lower wage. In fact, as many as 1 in 5 UK workers have been furloughed since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Because of this, people are finding it more difficult than ever to source necessities, including sanitary products. Thankfully, charitable operations, have been working tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 crisis. After talking to volunteers at the West End Foodbank in Newcastle, we found out that companies (such as Morrisons) as well as individuals, have been generously donating sanitary products throughout the pandemic.

A similar organisation in Northern Ireland has also seen a boom in volunteer activity. They’ve worked throughout COVID-19 to supply homeless individuals with clean, safe sanitary products and hot water bottles.

Together, we can support food banks and other charities by learning which non-food donations are in demand, dropping off donations to our local food bank, or even volunteering there.


About the writer.

An experienced and passionate writer, Delilah specialises in technology, travel, and culture. After acquiring an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Leeds, she‘s gone on to write for many online and print publications across different sectors.

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40 comments

  1. It’s the same here to a certain extent. I feel as if it’s taboo to even talk about periods, let alone the issues impacting those who have them.

  2. Thank you so much for reading. I always drop in extra supplies if I’m donating. No one should ever have to go without basic hygiene needs.

  3. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. My granny was exactly the same. They hadn’t half the things back then as we have now, but then again it wasn’t talked about. If you went without, you just didn’t go to work etc.

  4. I’m from Northern Ireland so we won’t be voting on Nov 4th. Our voting means little here – it’s a game of red V green and puts me off voting in general.

  5. It’s horrible to think that young and older women are going without. I could never imagine going without. Growing up we didn’t talk about it in school, but one of our teachers informed all of us in form class that she had loads of extra supplies if any of us needed it. I still remember that to this day and her kindness.

  6. It’s so sad that young girls have to g through this, it’s hard enough dealing with the trouble of periods as a women nevermind adding financial hardships to the mix!

  7. This is such an important conversation to discuss. We used to have a tax on sanitary products as they were considered a ‘luxury item’. This was an ongoing debate and in 2015 they removed the ‘tampon tax’ finally. The fact that it is still taxed in other countries is a reminder that we still have a long way to go!

  8. A really great reminder that Covid impacts on so many levels. Often period poverty is overlooked and something that is not discussed enough. I know there are programs available to help support people going though this but they aren’t advertised, discussed or shared enough. Covid really has shown what issues people face and magnified them so we get to see what has always been there. Great post — thank you for voicing this!

  9. Period poverty and the stigma surrounding the natural cycle of women has always pinched me. I have always used cotton/flannel pads, as do most of the women in my family, so the actual expense of more commonly used period products is not something I was aware of.
    Thanks for sharing this, along with some wholesome videos to watch!

  10. This is fantastic and very well written. I didn’t know this was a thing, but it’s a must to act on it!

  11. Thank you for bringing attention to this subject. I’m 60, and also the mother of two teenage boys, and poverty period was out of my radar. In the US, where I live, everything menstruation-related is super expensive. Again, thanks for sharing.

  12. This is an issue that is totally unaddressed in our country. Each family is supposed to lookout for the welfare of its female teens. But I guess, from time to time, there are personal hygiene companies that visit schools to educate and distribute some products.

  13. I could never imagine that this was also an area that would suffer a blow from pandemic. Its so sad to see how people are not even able to manage basics.

  14. This is such a hugely important subject. Thank you for talking so openly.

    It is something we see a lot in my primary school, even more so as children are starting periods so much younger that they’ve not even been taught about it.

    I always try to buy products on offer and donate to the food bank because I can’t imagine being in this situation x

  15. This is so interesting! I remember my Grandma was so surprised at all the period products available. She told me that when she was a girl she would use old cloths that she had to wash. This was during WWI. Now during COVID-19 there are a lot of things missing, including period supplies.

  16. I hate that there is period poverty. No woman should have to worry about this! Ever. Thank you for reminding me that I need to donate sanitary products.

  17. The truth is that this period has been devastating and the bankruptcy policies of countries like (Italy, Spain or Franca) and I say it as an Italian, have done nothing but make people poorer. In a country where covid is now history and is like a simple influence (even if they insist on telling you the opposite about us) the truth is that my government does not seem true to use it to prevent us from voting freely. As I envy you, you will vote on November 4th. And I envy you. I haven’t done it for YEARS … too many YEARS … YEARS when they forced us not to choose. YEARS in which they are impoverishing us, killing us and depriving us of freedom. Belarus? TSK! We have our own lukashenko too!

  18. This is a fantastic post. I didn’t even know this was a thing. Now I can donate to people in need.

  19. Thank you both for sharing such an important post. Period poverty makes me so sad. And it’s something I need to look into doing more about. I don’t currently have periods – so I don’t need to buy myself products. Perhaps I could find an organization in my area that accepts donations and every month buy the products I would have bought for myself but donate to them instead. It breaks my heart to think of young girls and women going through this x

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