SInce devolution was formalised, Scotland has consistently put Westminster to shame with their political maneuvers.
Their innovative response to attempt to tackle period poverty is no exception to this.
Whereas UK has historically been resistant to any conversation around period politics and female-specific issues, Scotland is leading the charge in raising awareness and dialogue around the issue.
Starting in Aberdeen, the Scottish council launched a pilot project providing women of low- or no-income backgrounds with free sanitary products, to huge acclaim. Now, Scotland plans to roll out the project nationwide, in order to aid the prevalent yet fundamentally preventable problem.
Again, Scotland proves to be the progressive and triumphant equivalent to our own lacklustre Westminster, recognising period poverty as an issue that should be tackled on a national level.
Affecting huge swathes of people from all backgrounds, period poverty combines the two great antagonists of our time, capitalism and sexism. In a society that lambastes females and their associated bodily functions, period products are an non-negotiable essential. Free bleeding is unthinkable and thus most people have little choice over using hygiene products.
As it always does, capitalism has seized upon this protocol, raising the prices of these essentials that women in near uniformity buy. Need for these products has not declined, and neither have the prices. Most products, including pads and tampons, are at a near-luxury level.
An average period costs around £5-15 in terms of sanitary products bought, a month. Pink Tax is no joke.
That’s why this Scottish project is so important. For average-income people, periods take a large and noticeable percentage of their monthly spendings. For needy groups – such as the low-income and homeless, as the project targets – period products are near inaccessible.
Evidently, this causes issues. Not only is there the physical impact in terms of health and hygiene that comes with a limited or lack of access to these products, there are social and individual impacts too. Social ostracisation, dehumanisation, and harassment can occur, in groups that are already traditionally high-risk and vulnerable.
Some steps forward have been made in terms of raising awareness for this prevalent yet hidden problem. Local shelters have long handed out hygiene products yet this untenable, especially given the extortionate price of goods. Companies such as Always have started projects to recognise and help period poverty, specifically amongst young people. Yet companies are not democratically accountable and are fundamentally driven by product, not to mention – in Always’ case – actively reaping the financial rewards of the high price of period essentials.
As a national problem, what is needed is a national governmental response.
Scotland, as always, is leading the charge to help end period poverty.
The project has already aided thousands of people; whilst notable and worth celebrating, this is a tiny proportion of those impacted nationally. Yet, even if small, the Scottish councils are doing something crucial in the cause of period poverty. They are raising awareness and discussion of the problem, which has long been obscured as a trivial, repugnant, and taboo topic.
Scotland is proving that it is not, that period poverty is worthy of our attention and is fundamentally preventable. Now it is up to Westminster to listen and adapt.