Let’s get the tricky part out of the way. Let’s just say the words that we all say but don’t really want to say. Periods, blood, tampons & sanitary towels. Yes, I know all very honest words in which we women know all too well. Each month we groan and complain about our cramps, our breakouts and every so often we’re a little moodier or a little angrier, but rightly so. We all get them or got them and deal with it all as soon as it happens, but what about the women who do not have the essential products to take care of themselves?
Sanitary products should be a basic right
It’s hard enough for when women get their periods, so how must it feel for a homeless woman? Who every day is looking for food and shelter, and then has to find some sort of material to keep herself healthy and clean. Homeless women should not have to endure this, sanitary products should be a basic right in which women can access, as and when. People are now starting to take notice of this, and a petition has been created to finally start dealing with this issue.
Oli, Sara & Josie are 3 interns who met at the London advertising company, BBH. Together they took notice of this issue and began to see how it affected homeless women. They contacted homeless shelters and found that women found it easier to find items such as toothbrushes and some food, rather than any form of sanitary product. With this, the trio started up a petition on change.org and called it #TheHomelessPeriod. They wrote an open letter to Simon Stevens, the NHS Chief Executive and asked for them to give homeless shelters a yearly allowance for sanitary care.
Their featured petition video features the voice of a Patricia. A women who used to sleep rough on the bus day and night, who used to rip up pieces of cloth to act as sanitary care. Patricia asks ‘Why do women have to rip up a cloth, put between her, to protect herself from bleeding?
Health and hygiene
With the services of free condoms being available in health clinics, as well as homeless shelters, sanitary products are not an easily given thing. As well as being taxed at 5% as a ‘luxury, non-essential item’, gaining these items for homeless women is only the beginning. People are being encouraged to donate sanitary care to shelters, but what’s more is we need this to be a free of charge service in which women do not have to worry about how they will take care of their health and hygiene.
Without these products for women, they can become increasingly ill. With lack of showers, infection can be caught. Periods can be irregular for women, so cramps occur and with no money to buy pain relief or sanitary care for when they do occur, women are left hopeless.
Homeless women are now resorting to shop lifting to secure sanitary products as they have no other choice. Many often feel embarrassed if caught, with some saying they have no other choice and do not know what else to do. A report from St Mungo’s, which looks into women’s experience of homelessness, says: “Male focused services often fail to comprehensively address the needs of their female service users. Expecting women to simply fit into homelessness services which have been designed for homeless men is not good enough. Service providers must understand the particular needs of homeless women.”
Sara, one of the founders of #TheHomelessPeriod was interviewed by The Independent and told them ‘When you put yourself in that situation you can’t stop thinking about it. It seems absolutely ridiculous. Anyone in the UK can get free access to contraception but someone can be in a position when you can’t get access to feminine hygiene products’’. With newspapers and social media picking up the story, the petition has now had over 60,000 signatures to secure free sanitary care for women.
Founders of #TheHomelessPeriod are now pleading for people to donate as much sanitary care as possible to homeless shelters, until the NHS finally realises how in need these women really are. Through their petition page, they ask for people who want to help the issue to set up crowd funds for these women, anything that will help them stay healthy and hygienic.
Government figures state that the number of rough sleepers rose by 37% last year, and it is evident that not enough is being done. Women should not have to find bits of dirty cloth to keep themselves clean, nor should they have to steal products and then face the shame when caught. Tampons nor towels are a luxury, they are a necessity.
If you wish to support this issue, please sign #TheHomelessPeriod
Changes need to be made, period.