Free sanitary products are being made available across East Lothian to support girls and women who struggle to afford costs associated with their monthly period. 

It’s important that anyone who needs sanitary products is able to find a supply near them where they can help themselves to what they need.

East Lothian Council is working with Hey Girls charity, GP surgeries, community centres and local organisations to offer free high-quality tampons and towels across 35 venues in the county, as well as all primary and secondary schools. The project has been made possible thanks to £68,000 funding from the Scottish Government.

The move is part of the council’s commitment to addressing poverty and inequalities across East Lothian. The East Lothian Poverty Commission, established in 2016, described poverty as “about more than a lack of money… [it’s] a human rights issue”. Since the Commission’s report was published in 2017, awareness of ‘period poverty’ has grown. Research suggests that over 137,000 children in the UK have missed school because of period poverty, while 1 in 10 girls can’t afford to buy what they need. The financial impact in households where more than one person needs sanitary products is higher.

Having supplies of products in a wide range of venues across local areas is key to giving residents on low incomes easy access to items so they can choose what they take, and when, in a discrete way. Posters and stickers encouraging people to ‘take what you need’ have been widely distributed to partners and stockists, while an online map highlights venues. People are encouraged to help themselves to products to last their period either for their own use or anyone in their household who needs them. Supplies will be restocked regularly in line with demand.

Cllr Shamin Akhtar and Celia Hodson from Hey Girls at the launch event and workshop

East Lothian Council’s Cabinet member for Health and Social Care, Cllr Fiona O’Donnell, said: “Nobody should have to miss out on school or work because they can’t afford sanitary protection. These are essential items for health, hygiene and personal comfort but sadly we know that, for some people in our area, the cost is too much to bear. We’re pleased we are working with organisations including Hey Girls! to tackle this issue and to make tampons and towels available free across East Lothian. It’s important that anyone who needs sanitary products is able to find a supply near them where they can help themselves to what they need.”

East Lothian Council’s Cabinet member for Education and Children’s Services, Cllr Shamin Akhtar, welcomed the supplies being widely made available to pupils and parents across the county’s schools. She said: “I’m really pleased we’re continuing to offer sanitary products throughout our schools. This is an area of work that we had already started within East Lothian through the Red Box Scheme. No-one should be worried about being caught out while they’re at school or, worse, having to miss school because they don’t have a supply at home. I’d encourage anyone who needs items to take what they need to last them for the duration of their period.”

Published: Friday, 30th August 2019