More than a third (36%) of girls aged 14-21 in the UK have struggled to afford or access period products during the Coronavirus pandemic – up a fifth on last year, according to a new survey released by international children’s charity Plan International UK.
That is equivalent to over one million girls in the UK. Half of these girls did not have enough money to buy period products at all at some point over the past year. Three quarters (73%) of those had to use toilet paper as an alternative to period products like pads.
Of the girls who found it difficult to afford period products during the pandemic but were able to buy them, some girls said they had to cut back on other essential items like food (30%), hygiene products like soap or toothpaste (23%) and clothing (39%).
Rose Caldwell, CEO of Plan International UK, said:
“These new figures are shocking but sadly not surprising. It is deeply concerning that the situation has continued to deteriorate since last year, with over a million girls and young women now estimated to have been affected by period poverty during the pandemic. We have seen great progress in public awareness of period poverty over the past several years thanks to the tireless work of grassroots organisations, but this is a wake-up call that much more needs to be done to ensure that all girls can access period products when they need them.”
These new findings come despite the introduction of several government and retailer schemes to provide free period products in schools, public buildings, and supermarkets.
The polling showed that only around half (49%) of girls aged 14-18 in England and Scotland said free period products have been provided in their schools and colleges.
Ms Caldwell added: “While access to period products is essential to tackling period poverty, it is only part of the solution. Period poverty is driven by a ‘toxic trio’ of issues, which on top of access to period products, includes a lack of education and the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation. We must ensure that girls and young women are not only supported with free access to products, but also receive education on periods and feel able to talk about the issue without fear of shame or stigma.”
For more information, visit plan-uk.org/periodpoverty
(1) Increase from 30% of girls unable to afford or struggled to afford or access period products during the first national lockdown (Plan International UK, 6 May 2020) https://plan-uk.org/period-poverty-in-lockdown
(2) Based on 2019-2020 ONS estimate population data for girls in the UK aged 14-21