It is estimated that people who menstruate spend around £5000 on sanitary products in their lifetimesWolfmann

A petition, launched by Cambridge student Ellie Brain calling on Cambridgeshire County Council to provide free sanitary products in all public facilities, is nearing its target number of signatures.

The petition had attained 2,290 signatures of it’s goal of 3,000 at the time of writing, and was discussed last week in a CUSU Period Poverty round table discussion

Petition-founder Brain noted that period poverty has “physical, emotional and social consequences” and this problem is worsened by the “silence and stigma surrounding period products”.

Currently, Plan International states that 1 in 10 young people have been unable to afford menstrual products, while the charity Bloody Good Period estimates that the average cost of menstruation in a person’s lifetime is £5,000.

If the petition reaches 3,000 signatures, it will discussed at a meeting of Cambridge County Council. The aim is to call on the council to provide free menstrual products in all public facilities, schools, libraries, youth centres and public toilets, following the example set by Milton Keynes earlier this year.

Earlier this year a report published by the think tank Centre for Cities found Cambridge to be the most unequal city in the UK, and in the whole of Cambridgeshire more than 23,000 children live in poverty according to figures published by campaign group End Child Poverty. However South Cambridgeshire remains ranked in the Top 25 local authorities with lowest levels of child poverty across the UK.

The petition says that the estimated lifetime cost of £5,000 is not something that low-income families or homeless people should have to face, arguing: “if toilet paper is provided freely in public toilets, period products should be there.”

Brain told Varsity that while the “goal is for country council to provide free menstrual products in all public facilities”, in the meantime “there is lots we can do” such as “liaising with local cooperatives and establishing drop off/pick up points”.

A round table discussion, hosted last week by CUSU, was attended by representatives from colleges, the county council, and local schools, coming together to discuss how best to combat period poverty. The discussion focussed on ongoing campaigns dealing with the issue within the University and the local area, as well as the across the UK in general. They also looked at how to stop what was termed a “gender injustice”.

Panelists discussed funding options, suggesting sponsorship from a local cooperative or asking Freecycle, which deals with food donations from supermarkets, to expand to menstrual products.


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Labour city councillor, Sophie Barnett, noted that obtaining funding from the county council would be difficult: “The county council are going to be a hard nut to crack because they have serious, serious funding issues”. She suggested a pilot scheme making use of donations from local businesses.

Brain said that her campaign needs “as many people behind this as possible”, hoping that the slogan, EPIC (End Period-Poverty In Cambridgeshire) “will hopefully increase publicity in the coming months”.

She is calling on anyone who wants to “write an article, design a poster, sponsor our project, or help run social media platforms, or even just wish to know about the project” to get in contact.

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