Scotland offers free Sanitary Products to fight Period Poverty

tampon on a red background

Scotland is leading the way in offering greater access to free period products.  Every school, college and university in Scotland will provide free sanitary products from the start of this academic year.  Sanitary products will also be distributed to almost 20,000 adult women from low-income families.

The Scottish government has introduced the scheme to help “banish the scourge of period poverty.”  Period poverty refers to having a lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints.   

Campaigners say girls who cannot afford sanitary towels and tampons have lower attendance, educational attainment and emotional wellbeing.  In research carried out by the Women for Independence (WFI) group women described their feelings of shame and isolation, worrying about smell, feeling uncomfortable and missing out on days of education, work and social events because they felt unable to go out.

 A Young Scot survey of 2,000 people at school, college or university in Scotland found that one in four struggled to access sanitary products.  Recent media coverage on the issue of period poverty also reported that girls in Leeds were routinely missing school because they could not afford sanitary products.  According to a survey by Plan International UK one in 10 girls or women aged 14 to 21 in Britain cannot afford sanitary towels or tampons.  

A fact-check by Channel 4 News said the average cost of a period in the UK is £128 a year or around £10 a month.  However for many of the poorest girls and women even a few pounds a month is unaffordable. 

In March the Welsh Government also announced a £1million fund in a bid to tackle period poverty in Wales.  Free sanitary products will be distributed through community groups, schools and food banks to those who need it most.  North Ayrshire council has also committed to providing free sanitary products via vending machines in toilets in public buildings including libraries, community centres and other public offices. 

The Scottish Government are hoping that this move will help to change attitudes towards menstruation and access to period products.  Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon welcomed the introduction of free sanitary products but is calling for the Scottish Government to go even further.  She has brought forward a Member’s Bill to introduce a universal system of free access to period products for everyone in Scotland saying:  “no one should face the indignity of being unable to access these essential products to manage their period.”