December 28, 2017

There are many, many issues which I believe are not currently being given the prominence they deserve – but let me use this platform to highlight just one area of Scottish Government work which I hope will make it onto the UK-wide agenda in 2018.

Period poverty, the inability of women and girls to afford sanitary products, has for too long been a hidden issue.

Briefing points
  1. A woman shoplifts a packet of tampons in a scene in Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake” film.
  2. Charity workers have told the BBC that some women had resorted to using toilet roll, socks and even newspaper instead of sanitary products.
  3. Sanitary products will cost most women in the UK £4 to £6 per month (or approximately £5,000 over a lifetime).
Understandably, few women and girls suffering from the indignity of period poverty are willing to speak publicly about it, making case studies difficult to come by.

Compounding this is the fact that women have for so long been under-represented in both politics and the media.

It is perhaps only because this gender imbalance is changing – albeit gradually – that there is an opportunity to give period poverty the attention it deserves.

This year, the Scottish Government became possibly the first in the world to give women and girls access to free sanitary products.

A pilot project, run through an Aberdeen food bank, has supported 1,000 low-income women in the North East.

And while we consider what lessons we can learn from that pilot project to support women on low incomes, we have already committed to rolling out access to free sanitary products to students in schools, colleges and universities next year.

It may be uncomfortable to believe that, in 2017, some women and girls cannot afford access to feminine sanitary products – but as the new year approaches, I hope it is one of the many under-reported poverty-related issues which governments across these islands resolve to tackle.

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> Introduction to this Under-reported series | All Under-reported articles.

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