Greening to 'look at' free sanitary products for poorest pupils

20th March 2017 at 14:53
Education secretary's announcement follows campaign highlighting the problem of 'period poverty'

Education secretary Justine Greening has told MPs that she will look at the issue of providing free sanitary products for children receiving free school meals.

A petition calling for schools across the UK to give pupils free sanitary products has been signed by almost 15,000 people.

The change.org petition cites the experience of the charity Freedom4Girls, which provides sanitary products to women in Kenya, but has now started doing the same in Yorkshire.

Freedom4Girls said it was contacted by a school in Leeds which was worried about the attendance of teenage girls.

It found that some girls took days off every month, because they or their families could not afford pads or tampons.

At this afternoon’s education questions in the House of Commons, Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland said: “It’s deeply shocking in the 21st century that girls, including in Leeds, are not going to school because they can’t afford sanitary products.”

Ms Greening replied: "I think you have raised an important issue and it's one that I will look at carefully and write to you about."

The campaign follows news that a Labour member of the Scottish Parliament plans to introduce legislation that would provide free pads and tampons for women and children who cannot afford them.

No money for sanitary products

Hannah, a member of the Fourth Wave: London Feminist Activists (LFA), which started the petition, said: "Throughout school I would mostly borrow from my friends or use tissue as I felt too guilty to ask my mum. I knew we didn't have much money and I also knew how expensive it all was, so I went without. If I was desperate, I would save my lunch money to buy them instead of eating."

According to its website, Fourth Wave: LFA believes "the state must provide regular, free access to sanitary protection to all school children".

The petition says: "We want to end the taboo with proper education, but first, provide sanitary items so no one has to miss school because of their period.

"Tampons and pads are necessities, not luxuries, so just as toilet paper is provided in schools for free, so should sanitary items."

The demands echo those that have been made on several university campuses in the US.

Last year, student activists at the University of Arizona issued a list of demands that included the free provision of tampons and menstrual pads on campus.

TES has contacted the Department for Education for comment.

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