By Hannah Whelan
You’ve clicked. Signed. Tweeted.
You’ve advocated. Protested.
And now the banners are down, letters shared, emails sent.
You can’t believe your eyes.
All MPs are on side!
Parliament are in favour.
Is this for real?
You watch the ripples have their beautiful, beautiful effect.
And menstrual health policy revolutionizes across the UK…
The purpose of the #freeperiods campaign goes far beyond December 20th. As our mission states, we need to normalize the dialogue around menstruation and put an end to the silence and stigma stuck to periods across the UK. The financial barriers to young women and girls’ success is one of many stages in a barrage of menstrual matters to tackle.
It is not to say that the movement is obsolete, and that revolutionary outcomes merely imagined. Menstrual activists worldwide are moving mountains on economically driven grounds. Spearheading tampon tax reforms across the US is the highly successful Jennifer Weiss-Wolf. Wolf has made rapid progress in America, with eight states making menstrual products tax exempt so far (grab Wolf’s Steinem-approved book here).
Yet, change cannot be sustained through these efforts alone.
In speaking with Plan UK’s Kerry Smith, it is evident that longer term strategies are needed. Smith described the social constraints entrenched within the financial burden. Smith questioned, ‘If you’re not aware how your body works, and you’re not allowed to ask, how can you manage that in a chaotic economic environment?’
And in short, you can’t. Unless you’re educated.
Smith describes the fundamental need for menstrual education to go ‘hand-in-hand’ with product distribution, remarking how ‘Plan’s recent research exposes how adolescent girls are not taught enough about the menstrual cycle, where as boys are not taught at all’.
And Plan UK are not alone. Sheffield-based Chella Quint has written about this extensively throughout her #periodpostive career. Likewise, Bristolian initiatives No More Taboo and the Real Period Project strongly encourage menstrual education in both primary and secondary schools. There are also extensive materials available in the United Kingdom – from online courses to period buses – amplifying the necessity for menstrual education.
Period poverty does not vanish in a heartbeat. As we speak out on December 20th, lets continue to ensure that the menstrual liberation we are seeing is beyond a glow of activism. We must shine light on the vital education that is needed alongside free menstrual products, Lets make #freeperiods more than a movement