It’s fair to say that the Scottish government’s £5.2 million pledge to enable all schools, colleges and universities in Scotland to provide free sanitary products for students was met by worldwide acclaim. It’s tackling an issue that until now has been cloaked in stigma.
For many young people in the UK, menstruation is an active barrier to participation in day-to-day life, including their education. Perhaps the most worrying statistics concern the use of sanitary products; in a recent survey, 10 per cent of young women stated they had been unable to afford sanitary products and 12 per cent had improvised sanitary products owing to affordability issues.
It has therefore been a genuine pleasure to see different institutions across the country sharing their methods of distributing products to their students – from baskets in bathrooms to innovations supporting students who are distance learners or spend significant time off campus.
However, a separate issue is around tackling the stigma of menstruation. This is the more insidious, more challenging issue to address.
And so, the most exciting thing about the Scottish government’s work on period poverty is the manner in which the public consciousness has been awoken to this issue. It’s heartening to see that this topic can be treated with such respect, and our challenge now is to build on that honest and open discussion to ensure that stigma and embarrassment around menstruation is a thing of the past.
Vonnie Sandlan is a senior policy officer at Colleges Scotland