I woke up this morning to a rogue insistent paw on my arm. My dog is 26 kilos of perfection with no sense of personal space, so when he’s up, I’m up. I stumbled through to the kitchen to dish out his breakfast. 6am walkies? He’s not embarrassed by my first public appearance of the day being in jammies, and I’m too sleepy to care. My flatmate is still away so I made a mental note to buy some loo roll as a welcome home surprise. I should probably buy some toothpaste too; my travel sized tube that had been to four festivals this season with me is covered in a crust of glitter, and there’s probably only a couple squeezes left.
There are some things we never buy until we’re in desperate need. Laundry detergent, for example. I have never in my life bought detergent until I’m down to my last par of socks and I’ve worn the same skirt for more days on the trot that I’d care to admit. I wish I was the kind of person who remembers to bulk buy the stuff when it’s on offer, but I’m not that much of an adult. Just yesterday I gave myself a mental high-five because I actually bought dish soap before we were completely out. Oh, and tampons. Has anyone ever purchased tampons just for the sake of it, rather than in a mad dash to the chemist when their period suddenly makes an appearance?
We take these things for granted all the time. We moan about having to go the shop for period supplies, but then we just do it. We buy our tampons, or our sanitary towels. We dig our menstrual cup out from underneath the sink (bathroom, not kitchen) and give it a good rinse, because chances are you won’t have looked at it since last month. We talk about period positivity all the time, and it’s incredible that something that wasn’t really spoken about when I was a teenager is no longer considered a “taboo” topic. People live tweet their periods. There are whole blog posts and vlogs dedicated to that time of the month, from sustainable menstrual products to how to navigate period sex. Canada, Ireland and Kenya have all abolished the ridiculous “Tampon Tax” that deemed feminine hygiene products a luxury item, and the UK has plans to do so by 2018.
As such an essential item, and one that needs to be replenished at a reasonably regular rate, it’s surprising that period products are some of the items we forget about when we think about donations to charities and organisations that aid homeless people. We know to donate food, to donate warm clothing, sleeping bags and blankets. We take into account the need for food and shelter, but what about that other monthly necessity? The next time we grumble about our period arriving unexpectedly to ruin our favourite cute pants, imagine dealing with this whilst living on the street, or in a homeless shelter.
Simon Community Scotland is an organisation who provides support and services to people experiencing homelessness in Scotland, and have launched a new initiative with Period Friendly Points, where women are provided with services to ensure a period with dignity.
We often take for granted that when our periods arrive each month, we’ll have a clean and sanitary place to sort ourselves out. Change a tampon, get a fresh pair of pants from the drawer, or curl up under a blanket with a hot water bottle. These aren’t options that are readily available to women experiencing homelessness; there’s no bed to curl up in, no clean toilet or running water, and often no menstrual products at all. Some resort to using paper towels, newspapers, or clothing in place of sanitary pads and tampons and may leave in a tampon for far longer than they should, which could result in Toxic Shock Syndrome or other infections.
Simon Community’s Period Friendly Points want to change this. They provide support for vulnerable women to access free treatment at a local pharmacy, self test kits in case of infection, and pregnancy test kits. PFPs will provide advice and care, something that’s been sadly lacking in services for the homeless. They want to help women rebuild their lives.
Simon Community and the Period Friendly Points Project want to support women in need and help them have a “period of dignity”. A 5 day period costs the charity and its suppliers £15, and includes a Period Friendly Pack of 5 towels, 12 tampons, 3 pairs of pants, travel wipes, disposable bags, information and advice. As a non-profit charitable organisation, so they’re always in need of donations and support. You can volunteer with this new project by becoming a Period Friendly Pal, or donate by texting PFPR28 to 70070.