PERIOD DIGNITY IS NOT A LUXURY
There are certain things we can’t avoid in life - some for the better, some for the worse. But for the majority of women, there is one thing in particular that the coming of age inevitably brings with it. Periods.
As women, we are taught that part of growing up involves a visit from Aunt Flow each month. And for a lot of us, while annoying and inconvenient as this visit may be, this is just something that we deal with by avoiding certain clothing, buying certain items, and possibly indulging in certain foods...! Yes, periods are a pain.
However, for so many women both in the UK and around the world, periods are not just a pain, they are an extremely life-altering problem. And they shouldn’t be.
You may have heard of a term called ‘Period Dignity’ which in summary represents the accessibility and availability of essential period care needed to support a period. A lack of Period Dignity is not only detrimental to a woman's health, it can also be incredibly humiliating and degrading to her personally. There is no denying that Period Dignity should not merely be a luxury or a privilege to those who can afford it. It should be a reality for every period regardless of class, circumstance or income.
WOMEN & HOMELESSNESS
Did you know, in a series of recent studies it was found that about 14% of rough sleepers in the UK are women? At first glance a mere 14% doesn’t seem like a massive number; however, what many of us don’t realise is that many of the women experiencing homelessness are not accounted for. There is something called ‘hidden homelessness’ which is a major problem in the UK. This term is used to categorise the individuals experiencing homelessness who are not accounted for by systems and statistics. Due to various factors such as fear of abuse, feelings of unsafety or backgrounds of domestic violence, women make up a very high percentage of the hidden homelessness population.
As homelessness becomes a devastating reality for an increasing number of individuals across the UK, especially following the catastrophic effects of the global pandemic, more and more women are slipping into this invisible bracket of homelessness leaving them unseen and unknown.
So, how do we help if we can’t even begin to accurately track this? First, it’s so important for us to look at and recognise the differences between women and men when it comes to homelessness and its causes. For many women, homelessness is caused or perpetuated by a lack of physical and psychological support, especially in cases where abuse is involved. If we can better support vulnerable women and treat homelessness with a more tailored and holistic approach, we can begin to reduce the gender inequality gap that prevents women from getting some form of relief. What’s more, when we look at the issue of female homelessness with a more intentional approach, we can begin to better understand issues like the lack of Period Dignity and take the steps needed to improve it.
PERIODS & HOMELESSNESS
Ask anyone with a period and they’ll be able to tell you two things:
1. Period products are pricey.
2. You’ll go through a lot of them.
To anyone who has ever had to create an emergency pad or tampon, you’ll know that it’s not always easy, rarely fully functional and it’s definitely not very comfortable. Now, imagine if that was your reality, not just for a few hours before you can get your hands on a real product, but for every moment of every period you’ll ever have. Unfortunately, this uncomfortable thought is true for so many women experiencing homelessness.
Did you know that the average pack of tampons costs between £3 - £5 and will often last just enough for one menstrual cycle? This doesn’t consider individual flows, emergency changes or extended cycles which can all significantly increase this cost and the need for these products. With the cost of these items, which should be recognised as an essential not a luxury, being so high, many women in a situation of homelessness cannot afford them without denying other basic survival essentials such as food. This harsh reality can cause major distress amongst women who will often have to choose between one or the other… Fuel and feed or address the bleed?
This is a choice that women should never have to make.
The fact that this choice exists means that Period Dignity is severely lacking among women impacted by homelessness. Due to having to make this life-compromising decision, women will often turn to unsafe and unhygienic means to aid their monthly bleeding such as old tissues, rags, newspaper, and other make-shift items that can cause infections and other health issues. Having to use items that are not designed or intended to support a period will also strip away the dignity of self-care that every human deserves.
We live in a world where the topic of menstruation is still, to a large extent, seen as taboo. Due to this, it is often overlooked and disregarded. However, if we continue to avoid this conversation, we will never achieve true Period Dignity. We desperately need to introduce better education and a willingness to learn about the effects of a period on women, especially those who are unable to care for themselves during their cycle.
It is absolutely vital for us to provide accessible and freely available sanitary products in shelters, hostels, walk-in centres and other establishments that support homelessness. These establishments should create a safe environment for women and implementing items that will provide care, hygiene, dignity and aid, is the first step to creating this environment. We cannot afford to ignore this essential need any longer.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY GIVING
This International Women's Day we are collaborating with an incredibly positive and brilliantly sustainable brand called Time Of The Month (TOTM)!
TOTM is a UK-based period care brand that creates organic, high-quality, naturally absorbent, and ultra comfortable period care. Their products are made with sustainable materials to reduce waste and protect the planet, and each product is designed to make period maintenance as easy and supportive as possible. We are so excited to announce that TOTM is working with OutsideIn to provide period kits for women experiencing homlessness supported by the Simon Community facility in Northern Ireland.
Each kit includes three pads, three tampons, two liners, and of course, an Oi Tag of Hope. These kits will fulfill the Share One aspect of our Wear One, Share One initiative that will accompany a new collection we are launching specifically designed to celebrate women this International Women’s Day. And what’s even more exciting, is that for every item sold in this collection not one but TWO kits will be donated to the Simon Community! This makes it more of a One For You = Two model and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it!
You might be wondering why we are giving a kit with a variety of products rather than a box or two of one kind - well, for most women experiencing homlessness there is no choice when it comes to what suits them best. And because we know that not one period is the same, we wanted to give these women the dignity of choice so that they can support their period in a way that works best for them, and so that they have access to a variety of products for each stage of their flows.
Here are a few examples of some brands and organisations that are playing a part in making Period Dignity a reality for all!
An organisation that works with women and girls living in poverty. Their mission is to achieve social justice, gender equality, and poverty eradication by working with vulnerable individuals living in poverty and exclusion.
If you want to know more about Period Dignity and how we are fighting for it to be a reality to all, not just this International Women’s Day but going forward too, we’d love you to give us a follow so that you can learn from the educational resources we’ll be releasing, as well as the exciting products and their giving aspects that we can’t wait to share with you soon!