Nearly two in 10 schoolgirls don’t have access to basic period protection

More than one in five (22%) schoolgirls struggle to access basic period protection, according to research.

A study of 2,500 parents of girls who menstruate, aged eight to 18, found period poverty is the reality for many, who can't always provide for their children during their time of the month.

As many as 34% say their daughter has left for school without the necessary supplies, while 14% have taken the day off to avoid any embarrassment.

This equates to 108 hours of missed schooling for each child affected between the ages of 12 and 18.

Of those who do make it to school, 19% rely on there being free items such as towels, pads, and tampons available. But 29 % said their child’s school is often without period protection.

In addition to towels, pads, and tampons, 21% say they sometimes can’t afford to buy toilet roll at home and 44% said their daughters have often reported a lack of loo paper at school.

The research was carried out by global hygiene and health company Essity, which is working alongside Tesco and charity In Kind Direct on its hygiene poverty campaign, which will see essential hygiene products, including Bodyform period pads, donated to charities throughout the UK.

Spokesperson for Essity, Gareth Lucy said: "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.

“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.”

Rosanne Gray, CEO In Kind Direct, said: “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.

“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.”

The study found 26% of schoolgirls have had to improvise and use alternative to period protection – such as toilet paper (84%), kitchen rolls (24%) and washing more regularly (21%).

Others have had to use napkins (20%), change their clothes (19%) or double up underwear (18%). Of those parents who have found themselves unable to afford to buy period products, 45% have asked family and friends to help out.

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While 43% have endeavoured to source what their child needs from a GP, hospital or place of work, another 43% have visited a food bank or local charity to get what they need.

Only 73% of all parents polled say they can always provide pads and tampons for their child while they are on their period.

Across the nation, those living in Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Manchester fare the worst when it comes to accessing protection – with 25% respectively having struggled.

While children in Leeds (23%), Sheffield (21%) and Leicester (16%) have also experienced period poverty at some point. And although many families are privileged enough to afford the basics – even those who can afford monthly protection know of others who can’t (23%).

Of those aware of their child’s friends struggling, 87% gave the child tampons or pads because they couldn’t afford them – while 42% spoke to the child’s school to raise awareness of the situation.

Gareth Lucy for Essity added: “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.

“We’ve been donating 1.2m pads per year since 2017 but the problem is getting worse and more needs to be done.”

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