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Social Justice

UK’s period poverty taskforce meets for the first time

Politicians, health experts and charities met to design a plan that will make period justice a reality

A period poverty taskforce set up by the government has held its first meeting as it sets about tackling the financial obstacles and stigma surrounding menstruation.

Chaired by the minister for women and equalities (Penny Mordaunt, who has since been succeeded by Amber Rudd in Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle). children’s rights charity Plan International UK and Procter & Gamble, a sanitary towel manufacturer.

After the meeting, the government announced a range of organisations it would be working with to take action on specific areas of period justice. This includes Bloody Good Period who will lead the effort to improve access to period products for everyone; the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will focus on gathering comprehensive data and evidence; Binti International will fight to break down stigma and shame around periods alongside Sport England.

The taskforce was specifically designed to encourage a joined-up approach that allows experts from all sectors to collaborate on the issue of period justice.

In the meeting, all parties came together to look at what work needs to be done in those key areas and agree on a united vision to work towards.

Tanya Barron, chief executive of Plan International UK, said: “We’re delighted to have co-chaired the first meeting of the government’s period poverty taskforce, which represents the first real opportunity to tackle period poverty and stigma.

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“We’ll be working hard to make sure the voices of UK girls are heard and that any course of action reflects their needs and concerns. Together we can put an end to period poverty and stigma once and for all.”

The inaugural meeting coincided with a huge announcement from period poverty-fighting social enterprise Hey Girls as its products hit the shelves of community retail Co-op.

The day time and overnight sanitary pads and menstrual cups can be found in nearly 200 of the stores – thanks in part to a £50,000 investment from our social investment arm, Big Issue Invest.

It also marked the launch of the Big Issue Invest Power Up Scotland programme, funded by partners Aberdeen Standard Investments, the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government, Brodies LLP, Places for People and Experian. It’s aimed at making funding of up to £50k available to 20 Scottish social ventures over the next two years.

Founded by Celia Hodson with the help of her two daughters, Kate and Becky, Hey Girls sells a full range of period products on a ‘buy one give one’ model – meaning for every pack purchased another is donated to a girl or woman in the UK in need. Following the completion of the three-month Power Up Scotland programme in 2018, Hey Girls were listed in both ASDA and Waitrose last year. They are also a major supplier in the Scottish Government’s initiative to provide access to free sanitary products to pupils and students in Scotland.

The government’s period poverty taskforce set out plans to produce research papers demonstrating the scale of menstruation stigma in England as well as working closely with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to improve awareness and education.

Acknowledging that there are already a number of initiatives working towards the same goals as the government, taskforce members will also look to identify gaps in access to period products to develop truly effective, new approaches to make sure no one is forgotten in the fight to make period products available to all.

Applications are now open for the Big Issue Invest Power Up Scotland programme. For more information get in touch: Scotland@bigissueinvest.com

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