An Open Letter To Theresa May & Justine Greening From The #FreePeriods Movement

Illustration: ALICE SKINNER
Dear Theresa May & Justine Greening,
On Wednesday 20th December, from 5-8pm, you will not fail to notice a crowd gather opposite Downing Street. You will see hundreds of people, of all genders, races and ages, stand together, wearing red, waving banners, and demanding change.
We will be there because it is time to end period poverty. This is the #FreePeriods movement, and we invite you to be a part of it.
My name is Amika George and I’m an 18-year-old A-level student from London. I started the #FreePeriods campaign from my bedroom in April after reading about the plight of children across the UK who cannot afford menstrual products when they have their period. These children can be as young as 10. They miss school every month because they cannot face the embarrassment, shame and fear of going to their lesson using socks stuffed with tissues or old, torn clothes to catch their period blood. These are children whose parents face a daily struggle to feed them let alone afford menstrual products, which are considered an unattainable luxury. Sadly, the stigma surrounding periods means they suffer alone and in silence.
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Although eradicating the taboo is a mammoth task which can take generations to dispel, your government can consign period poverty to history by taking immediate, legislative action. We ask that you address the needs of these children without delay. By providing free menstrual products for all children already on Free School Meals, you will be ensuring that they can continue their education without interruption, with dignity and in confidence so that they can achieve their goals without impediments.
We have calculated an estimate of what this would cost, which you can see on our website, #FreePeriods. For a relatively small amount of funding, you can transform the lives of children who live in crippling, abject poverty, who will struggle to escape its clutches unless they can better their lives through education.
The recent Budget was hugely disappointing – it failed to address period poverty, despite unwavering cross-party support and the efforts of passionate campaigners working tirelessly to elicit change. Periods are not a choice, and menstrual products should NEVER be a luxury for any child. Indeed, we believe that access to menstrual products is a fundamental human right.
Our protest will be peaceful, and we will stand united in solidarity on behalf of every one of these children who feels voiceless and powerless. More than 80,000 people have added their name to the #FreePeriods petition, asking your government to make a statutory pledge to end period poverty by providing all children receiving free school meals with free menstrual products. We are hopeful that you will listen.
Best wishes,
Amika and the #FreePeriods campaigners