Bristol leaders say government period poverty efforts must go further

Councillors are on a city-wide mission to end menstrual stigma after hosting the UK's first Period Poverty Summit

The government must do more to end period poverty and stigma, according to council leaders in Bristol – where a pioneering city-wide initiative is working to end period poverty for good.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced free period products for all secondary schools in England as part of his spring statement.

However Councillor Helen Goodwin, Bristol’s cabinet member for women, children, and families, said he “could have gone further”.

She said: “I welcome this investment by the Chancellor to support young women and girls who either can’t afford to buy sanitary products, or just as worryingly, don’t feel they can ask for them.”

“But it is important to educate young people too to help end the stigma around periods and menstrual health.”

Goodwin continued: “This funding will enable us to deliver on our promise to provide free sanitary products to all secondary school and college students. But evidence shows that girls are starting their periods earlier, so we also need to ensure primary schools have the means to help girls.

“We are working with teachers and headteachers to understand provision in all of the city’s schools and to ensure that policies around access to toilets during lessons supports young women during their period.”

The councillor hosted the UK’s first Period Poverty Summit earlier this year, as reported by The Big Issue.

A motion calling for an end to period poverty was passed unanimously in November, with the council committing to supplying all schools with free period products from September this year.

Bristol’s city-wide scheme encompasses business, sports clubs and local people after city leaders agreed on eradicating period poverty as a key priority for 2019.

In a letter to education secretary Damian Hinds, Councillor Goodwin wrote: “We have already made progress on our goals and are currently auditing all of the schools in the city to understand current provision.

“We are also devising an action plan to ensure that period products are available to all who need them across the city, including in leisure centres, libraries and civic and community centres.”

Bristol City Council is also working with menstrual health experts to develop a resources for schools to tackle the stigma around periods.

Goodwin added: “Our intention is to improve menstrual health awareness, maintain physical activity in girls post puberty, improve education around periods for boys and ensure all Bristol’s schools are Period Friendly Schools.”