In March 2017, we decided going forward we would pay the VAT for our customers on their purchases of sanitary care products at CONTENT. Why? We are waiting for Parliament to catch up on the necessity for menstruation care products — which certainly should not be a luxury even though they are taxed as such. Going VAT free on these organic personal care essentials, even though a small act, was something that we could provide for our customers. Amika George is taking the fight further. Straight to the Prime Minister, in fact, with her brilliant campaign #FreePeriods. With support from The Pink Protest to address period poverty in the UK, Amika shared the origins of the movement and what we can do too.
I started the Free Periods campaign back in April of this year, after reading in a BBC report that girls in the UK were routinely missing school because they couldn’t afford sanitary products. A wonderful charity called Freedom4Girls, which provide sanitary products to girls in Kenya, was asked to divert supplies to Leeds. I was totally taken aback by this. Not only because it seemed desperately sad and unjust that these girls, who were clearly living in abject poverty, had to miss out on their education and childhood simply because they were born as girls. But because it was happening right under our noses. I started a petition and have been trying to raise awareness of period poverty as much as possible. It’s something that many people have never heard of, and it’s brilliant that it’s finally being discussed.
Why do you think it is important to help end period poverty in the UK?
It’s absolutely essential that we eradicate period poverty in the UK, and globally. Period poverty is an obstacle to these girls fulfilling their ambition, whatever that might be, to breaking out of the clutches of poverty and deprivation for possibly generations. Period poverty robs girls of their dignity – no girl should be making do with socks, tissues and newspaper. It’s really wrong that we sit back and let this happen. Many of these girls are very young, as young as 10, and the stress this causes them is unimaginable. Periods are not a choice, and the government must now intervene.
In addition to signing the #FreePeriods petition, is there anything we can do to help raise awareness of this issue?
Please do sign the petition! It’s so important to create a movement around this, to show the government that period poverty must end. The other part of my campaign is to address the stigma surrounding periods. It is just insane that, as a society, we can talk about really provocative issues quite comfortably, but we are awkward and embarrassed of a natural bodily function which makes women extraordinary. We should all be talking more about our periods to break the silence and the taboo. I’d like for men and women to celebrate the wonder of our bodies and embrace periods! Periods are part of something just incredible!