Meet the new student-led project fighting to combat period poverty

Free the flow, end the stigma


On Saturday it was the first-ever National Period Day. To mark this occasion I spoke to Free the Flow, a student-led project at UoY aiming to combat period poverty on campus and within the wider community, to discuss their objectives and to find out how other like-minded students can get involved.

Free the Flow started in February 2019 so are still relatively new yet have already inspired other universities to join the campaign of ending stigma around periods, with University of Bristol also starting their own Free the Flow.

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On a mission to "end period poverty on university campuses"

Period poverty is a problem that can affect women of all ages, it is when women do not have easy access to safe, hygienic sanitary products, and are unable to manage their periods with dignity, sometimes because of the social stigma around periods.

According to Plan International, 1/10 girls between the ages of 14 and 21 in the UK cannot afford monthly sanitary products. While, 49% have missed a whole day of school due to their period.

One of the most shocking facts is that sanitary products in the UK include a 5% 'luxury' tax. However, Tesco, Waitrose and the Co-Op have scrapped the tax on the products and now pay the tax on behalf of their customers. Despite supermarkets taking a stride to change the UK government still impose the 'tampon tax'.

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An image from Free the Flow. Periods are a necessity not a luxury.

Free the Flow's main goals are:

1. Eliminate menstruation inequality/period poverty.

2. Raise awareness of issues facing menstruators globally.

3. Spread period positivity.

They are also currently implementing a "For Now For Life" strategy. This means that for now, they are collecting and donating sanitary products to send to The Gambia. Then next term they are wanting to carry out workshops where they teach women how to create their own sustainable sanitary products which will be better for the environment and a step in the direction of ending period poverty for good.

In addition to this they are hosting various events on campus for students to get involved in. A recent successful event Menstruation Conversations was in partnership with Project Gambia where guest speakers Magalie Basil, Maddie Jenkins, and Pascale Hall, spoke about period poverty in Sri Lanka, sharing their own experiences volunteering in Bangladesh and period sustainability. Many students who attended donated sanitary products to Project Gambia.

Free the Flow encourage anyone and everyone to come along to their events to start a discussion about menstruation and end the stigma around periods.

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Say it how it is.

In one lifetime, mestruators are expected to use between 5 and 15 thousand pads and tampons each, most of which end up in landfill. So, not only are sanitary products over-priced they are also bad for the environment.

To combat this problem, Free the Flow are trying to raise awareness about sustainable sanitary products such as menstrual cups and reusable sanitary pads.

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National Period Day: 19th October

Free the Flow say anything above £0 seems over-priced for a product that not only is necessary to keep women healthy but also allows women to carry on their day-to-day lives/go to school/go to work without worrying that their monthly bleed will stop them. This is why Free the Flow are hoping to see University of York providing free/donated sanitary products to anyone who may need them on campus.

To help end the stigma around periods by getting involved and seeing what events Free the Flow have coming up, join their free membership on YUSU and/or email Free the Flow at [email protected]

Or keep updated via their social media sites:

Twitter: FreeTheFlowYor1

Instagram: freetheflowyork

Facebook: freetheflowyork