Fighting Period Poverty in the UK

- min read

Our first Ruby Cup donation in London with Ditch The Rag

The struggle to afford period products is a universal one, and it looks pretty much the same, no matter where in the world you are. It’s happening around us, everywhere. Even in some of the richest countries.

The embarrassment and the shame surrounding periods stains and having to ask for a pad is the same unpleasant experience everywhere. Recently, there has been a wave of emotional stories from young women in the UK speaking up about period poverty and how it affects them.

Some told heartbreaking stories of having to wrap toilet paper around their underwear or lining their knickers with layers of tissues which are not made to soak up menstrual blood and end up creating more of a mess than a solution.

For the past 8 years, we have been donating Ruby Cups in collaboration with local NGOs in 12 countries from schools in Kenya and Nepal to refugee camps in Uganda and Angola.

Now we have partnered with Ditch The Rag, a UK fundraising initiative with the vision of ending period poverty with plastic-free, eco-friendly products, to have our very first Ruby Cup donation in the UK. 

We caught up with Ditch The Rag founder Amirah. She is a science teacher and has been buying tampons and pads from her own money to support her students affected by period poverty.

Amirah, why did you start "Ditch the Rag" and how is Ruby Cup supporting your mission?

I grew up in the same economically deprived area that I now work as a Science Teacher in. I started Ditch the Rag as it was becoming a norm to buy tampons and pads for girls in my classes during my weekly grocery shops. 

The detrimental environmental impact of these disposable products began to concern me, which is the main reason I made the switch to the menstrual cup. I then started to question why I was buying the girls disposable period products when I wouldn’t use them myself, so I began crowdfunding to generate capital to purchase, create and distribute plastic-free, reusable menstrual care packs for girls on free school meals. These girls are the most vulnerable and at risk of being negatively impacted by period poverty. 

These reusable menstrual products provide a longer-term solution to the problem that is period poverty as well as addressing the very current issue of plastic pollution. 

Ruby Cup has been absolutely amazing! I reached out to them explaining what I hoped to do for the girls in my local London area and beyond, they immediately enrolled in my vision and have been unbelievably supportive. 

Ruby Cup have so very generously donated menstrual cups to Ditch the Rag forming part of the menstrual care packs. Their donation has allowed me to increase my outreach tenfold, increasing the number of girls I will be able to run workshops with and distribute the packs to.

Amirah Miller from Ditch The Rag preparing sustainable menstrual product kits that she donates to schoolgirls in deprived areas. 

What challenges the girls you work with facing?

The girls lack the education about their periods and how to best manage their periods in regards to the variety of products that are available to them on the market.

The girls also come from deprived economic backgrounds, many of them report struggling to afford period products on a regular basis and have used items for longer than they were supposed to. 

There is also still the remains of the period taboo, where girls are reluctant to talk openly and discuss their periods. 

Tell us about the planned distribution with Ruby Cup

The girls will complete a workshop that will focus firstly on their periods as a whole, so they can gain an understanding of the inner workings of the biological process during the time of menstruation. 

This is with the intention of reducing the taboo surrounding the subject of periods to promote positive menstrual health. The workshop will then introduce the girls to the new products contained in their menstrual care packs, giving them guidance and advice on how to use and care for the products. 

The packs will then be distributed to the girls for them to trial, which will hopefully result in them adopting them as opposed to the disposables they currently use during their periods. 

How is your work changing things for girls in Hounslow?

Currently, girls in Hounslow do not have a consistent supply of period products available to them at schools. The products that are available are donations from various charities which are usually XL sanitary pads that students have to go and ask for from a member of staff who distributes them. 

The products are not readily available or accessible and many students lack the confidence to go and ask for them, so the supply is somewhat redundant. Many girls also do not want to use XL pads. 

Ditch the Rag will ensure that girls at least have the option of having access to products of their choice, including the menstrual cup and reusable pads. 

Ditch the rag Amirah Miller, Ruby Cup and Bryony Farmer fighting period poverty

In a survey carried out with students, 90% of girls reported that they would like to try the alternative products that would be available in the care packs that will be distributed to them. 

The current barrier to them trying these products are the initial upfront costs. A menstrual cup has an RRP of £20 and for many girls in Hounslow, this is simply not affordable. The girls also lack the education and understanding that the products will save them money in the long run given the lifespan of the re-useable products. 

How can people support you or stay updated on future projects and your fight against period poverty?

Donations are still being accepted for Ditch the Rag via my Just Giving crowdfunding page and will be spent creating care packs for the girls. We welcome anyone who wishes to take on a more active fundraising role with open arms!

You can stay updated on Instagram @ditchtherag. The account is to raise awareness for period poverty, healthy menstruation, the environmental impact of single-use products as well as to post updates on current projects and distributions within schools. 

logo ditch the rag against period poverty in the uk

 


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