Women for Independence National Committee Member Victoria Heaney is leading WFI's campaign for free sanitary protection. Read all about it here.

[This is an archived article from 2017]

The women of Women for Independence haven’t stopped working since the 2014 referendum. From getting maternity pads included in baby boxes, halting plans for a woman’s prison and supporting many women into public life, WFI have chalked up a number of successes.

Over the last few months we have watched the concern shared by many about access to period products.  It has been in the news, on screenplay and our dear WFI sister and newly elected MSP Gillian Martin has been pushing this in the Scottish Parliament along with Monica Lennon MSP.

It was a welcome development last week to hear Scottish Government Minister Angela Constance MSP commit to looking into this topic further.  Whilst this is extremely positive I am aware it is no promise or guarantee that this will happen in this term of the parliament or future.

That’s where the WFI magic happens…….

To keep this topic burning we need to seek the experiences of women all over Scotland, gathering evidence that tells us what the score is for a range of women on this matter. By doing this we hope to build a national picture of the many different situations and experiences of women.  This research will embolden the drive to get access to period products as a universal benefit in Scotland.

So, with that I am launching a survey which is open to all women who have or have had experience of menstruating.  Maybe you have had a hysterectomy or don’t identify as a woman, but still have experience of menstruating and want to participate, that’s great and you are welcome to!!

This campaign is only going to happen with everyone getting involved so it would be great to see all WFI groups getting on board and doing what you do best.  You may not have had a local meeting for a while and there hasn’t been much to focus on aside from electoral politics.  This is an opportunity to reach out to those women that you haven’t seen in a while and have some fun getting back together.

I am still struggling to get over the fact that period products are classed as “non-essential luxury items” and taxed. What is even more preposterous is that we live in a society where the supply and commercial use of gambling equipment, such as a fruit machine, is exempt from tax and having a period with no option of choice is not.  If these items were so luxurious I would be wearing a cape of tampons to get my money’s worth.  It seems to be that the only people getting their monies worth on the sale of period products are the companies themselves and the tax man, who has been using the tax from period products for womens' refuges and healthcare services. Our bleeding literally support the UK's austerity agenda.  Shameful.

On a serious note, it is absurd that in 2017 these” non-essential luxury items” aren’t free already.

We spend one fifth of our lives menstruating and the cost mounts up. Somewhere right now a woman somewhere is having her period, and she is not able to access the products that she needs, that will help her go about her day to day business worry free.  It could be for a variety of reasons; she may have to ask someone for money and this request brings worry, shame or embarrassment.  It could be that she does not have any money to buy these and has put the needs of others before her own, as women often do. 

The reasons for not being able to access periods products are not simple or clear cut.  This is why we need a universal service which offers security in knowing that if you need period products you can have them.  No asking, no justifying, no going to a foodbank.  

Growing up as young carer in a lone parent household made me financially conscious at far too early an age.  Money was always tight and there was a pressure to get by on a week to week basis.  Witnessing my mother opt for tampons as they lasted longer was a choice based on our financial situation.  This had a direct consequence on her health and she was diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome which could have had fatal consequences.   Despite money being tight and mum juggling her shopping list to put my needs above hers, she found the occasional 50p to give me.  I would scramble down the aisle to buy pet food to dump in the wheelie bin at the end of the till for an animal shelter.  Now as a grown woman, I find myself buying towels and tampons, at every shop to put in the foodbank collection area.  I don’t like the way we have normalised a practice previously reserved for sick animals to human beings.  What further saddens me is that the so called “non-essential luxury items” are items that are least likely to be given to foodbanks.  I have often seen Women’s Aid publicly appeal for donations of period products. 

Some women just can’t afford period products.

According to research from Engender, the gender pay gap in Scotland is 14.8%.  Women who work part time earn 33.5% less than men.  On average, we earn £175.30 less than men per week.  Welfare reforms have continued to be an economic attack on women.  Who do you think paid for the 86% of cuts to the social security welfare reforms?  Surprise Surprise, it was us!! With lone parents experiencing a drop in their disposable incomes by 17%, it is reasonable to imagine that some of us might be  experiencing the financial strain of meeting our “non-essential luxurious” needs.

This is an issue directly related to independence for women.  How can we participate socially, culturally, practically and politically in society if some of us can’t even leave the house during our period?

Women for Independence/Independence for Women have an opportunity to gain a better understanding of this issue, with your support.  Please complete the survey and pass it on to those around you.  It is important we build a picture of a range of women’s experiences. 

All information given will be anonymised and personal information (name & address) will be deleted one month after the survey closes.  The findings will then be published and placed on the WFI website.

If you fancy holding a public event or would like support from WFI to carry out the survey please email us at [email protected].

I feel lucky to live in a country that provides so many free universal benefits and healthcare at the point of asking in the form of free prescriptions, stop smoking aids and Prep medication to prevent HIV.  Isn’t it about time that we got access to period products?

Let’s get to work and help to make access to period products free for all women…period!! #FreePeriodScotland

Thank you.


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