Imagine, for a second, that you’re 13 years old. You’re navigating your first year of high school, trying to remember a busy timetable and drowning in a mountain of homework. You’re a star striker on the school football team, and teachers say you have a bright future ahead in football. Now, imagine you’ve started your period.
Why would this make a difference, you ask? Not only are you experiencing the usual rush of fear when your period starts unexpectedly, but there is something else on your mind too. The thing is, you can’t afford to buy sanitary towels because your family are forced to prioritise paying for electricity and, as a result, you miss an average of three school days a term. This isn’t an elaborate “what if?” scenario I have conjured up, this is the reality for thousands of young people across Scotland. A total of 137,700 in the UK, to be exact.
In December, I had the amazing opportunity to give evidence to the Local Government and Communities committee at the Scottish Parliament, representing young people’s views on Monica Lennon MSP’s Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Bill. I sat on a panel with four amazing women from charities across Scotland, campaigning for period dignity for all. Across from me was a group of MSP’s looking to hear the experiences of people who had experienced period poverty themselves. It was terrifying, but giving a voice to those in need was so worth it. I highlighted the experiences of not just those in the statistics, but those of my own constituents, who were brave enough to educate me on their own experiences of period poverty.
Given the clear positive impact that this bill would have on the lives of young people across Scotland, this needs support from Scotland’s senior decision-makers. I know that this is an issue that is close to the hearts of many young people across Scotland, highlighted by the following SYP policy:
‘’The Scottish Youth Parliament believes that access to menstrual hygiene products is a basic human right, and that more effort should be made to ensure that those in disadvantaged financial situations have access to these products.’’
– Suki Wan MSYP, passed with 99% agreement.
Everyone, no matter their age, gender identity, income or living situation, should have the right to access sanitary products. This is why I decided to start a petition, urging the Scottish Government to back the bill. You can sign the petition here!
We should not be at a point in a society where young people are forced to use boiled rags in place of basic sanitary products, or discreetly hide tampons up their sleeves in public. I have faith that we can get out of this place. This bill would be a huge step forward in reducing the stigma around menstruation, and ensure no young person in Scotland ever misses school because of their period again. Young people who menstruate deserve the right to stay clean, healthy and have fun. This bill would ensure that becomes a reality. And who could disagree with that?