YouGov has found that 43% of British girls have witnessed bullying and shaming about their periods, with 40% of this teasing taking place in lessons.
Over 1,000 secondary-school children were surveyed and conclusions revealed that 72% of boys have not had dedicated period education, which in turn is boosting stigma. A further 20% were also unaware of basic facts such as whether it’s safe to exercise or whether you can hold periods in “like wee”.
The report found that 91% of girls worried about going to school while on their period, citing worries about leaking, being teased by boys and not being able to go to the toilet during class, and that 35,000 girls are missing school while on their period – which equates to missing out on 2.1 million hours of education.
A teenager told the Independent that her period education was insufficient and she had never been taught about the range of sanitary products available.
“Boys do seem to be very ignorant about periods, and the opportunity to be bullied about your period is quite wide. It does knock your confidence if a boy says ‘is it that time of the month?’ or ‘is that a pad?’. It makes you shy away from school.”
She added: “I think the idea that periods are taboo is ingrained in society and not just with students but with teachers. Periods should not be taboo. They are a natural process that have been happening since the dawn of mankind. In a way, it is good, it shows your body is working properly.”
Periods should not be taboo. They are a natural process that have been happening since the dawn of mankind
Not only do girls face the effects of being shamed at school, but period poverty continues to affect girls’ education. Almost 140,000 young girls every year in the UK also miss school because they cannot afford to buy sanitary protection.
The #FreePeriods campaign was started by 18-year-old Amika George when she discovered impoverished girls on their period were having to improvise with old socks taped to their knickers or by using wads of toilet roll stolen from public toilets.
She has also launched an online petition to convince Westminster to follow the lead of the Scottish government and provide free sanitary products in all schools.
Other women are also taking period poverty into their own hands, as the newly launched global period-poverty awareness initiative, Project Period, has opened a pop-up shop in Shoreditch. Proceeds will go towards the £30K needed to fund a reusable-sanitary-pad production hub in Kenya, which will be run and made by local women. The event is spearheaded by Raise The Roof Kenya, which has helped 45,000 women and girls get menstrual and hygiene education in Kenya, where 65% of girls are forced into sex in exchange for sanitary products.
At the pop-up shop, you can purchase an £8 sanitary kit that is reusable for two years and this will then be sent to a woman or teenage girl in Kenya. A range of speakers during the week, including Dr Anita Mitra, will also give talks on global period poverty.