Last week, the University and College Union (UCU) launched a new campaign at to tackle period poverty in Newcastle. Student mentors at Newcastle College are now able to provide sanitary products to students who are unable to afford them.
This discreet service is open to any student, with the sanitary products being bought by the UCU. Newcastle College staff are also being encouraged to support the campaign by donating products themselves.
In August, the Scottish government announced that students at schools, colleges and universities across Scotland would have access to free sanitary products. The £5.2 million scheme is the first of its kind, and Helen Carr, the head of equality at UCU, believes that our government should be following their example and allowing this service to be provided at schools, colleges and universities around the country.
“Free sanitary products will help address period poverty issues, as students in particular face financial challenges while they are studying. Tampons and sanitary pads are not luxury items, they are essential for women. The initiative by the UCU branch at Newcastle College provides women with dignity and respect and should help address the taboos around periods.”
Plan International UK conducted a survey in 2017 to estimate the extent of period poverty in the country. The survey found that one in ten young women aged 14 to 21 had been unable to afford sanitary products. Further findings reveal that 12% of those surveyed had to improvise sanitary wear, whilst one in five had changed to less suitable sanitary products due to financial struggle.
Period poverty is also a concern for NUSU President, Raff Marioni, and the Welfare Officer, Jack Green. They are hoping to implement a similar scheme for Newcastle University students.
Jack Green explains: “Affordability is one of the most important issues that students face at university. This is one small way that we can reduce the cost of periods for students. We are exploring a number of different options, and will consult with staff members and female students to find the best solution. We want to ensure that the solution will be viable long term, even after we finish our sabbatical year.
“The Students’ Union has already showed commitment to creating affordable sanitary products, with all sanitary products being at cost price in our shop. The next step is consultation with students, the University and trying to secure long-term funding for the initiative.”
Becky Tuck, President of Newcastle University’s Feminist society, said “Bloody Good Period estimates that the average lifetime cost of having a period is approximately £4800, which is a huge sum especially when periods are not a choice but a biological inevitability. Nobody should have to make the choice between feeding themselves and buying menstrual products – they should be free for anyone who needs them.
“I absolutely support this initiative to help students in need, and hope that it gets people talking about periods to lift some of the taboo!”
NUSU President Raff Marioni encourages students to help with the campaign, stating “We will be conducting some research around campus, probably in the form of very basic face to face quick questions about whether free sanitary items would help you live more affordably, improve your experience and improve your opinion of the University as an institution that cares for students.
“If you see sabbatical officers around campus please come and talk to us! Students giving answers to these simple questions will be so vital to our campaign and getting across to the University that this is something that is worthwhile. Also, I really encourage anyone to come into the SU and speak to us about their experience or simply email us!” Emails can be sent to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org