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Scotland makes period history

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Scotland makes period history

Period history was made this week as Scotland became the first country to make menstruation products free for all

Unanimously approved in November 2020, the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill came into effect last Monday and places a legal duty on Scotland’s 32 councils to ensure anyone who needs to can get period products for free.

The legislation was introduced by Monica Lennon, Labour MSP who tweeted: “Women, girls and people who menstruate should never face the indignity of period poverty. [I’m] proud that we are making period dignity for all a reality… [Scotland] are the first but won’t be the last.”

Explaining the issue

“There’s a very simple way to describe period poverty,” said Georgie Nicholson, contracts and partnerships manager at Hey Girls. Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Ms Nicholson explained: “You go to the supermarket, and you have to actually choose whether you can buy a bag of pasta or a box of tampons. It’s that basic.”

It is estimated that around 500 million people who menstruate live in period poverty with many in the poorest countries reverting to items such as grass and paper over pads and tampons. The problem, however, is universal. Indeed, a 2018 Young Scot survey found that one in four respondents at school, college or university in Scotland had found it difficult to access period products.

According to the Scottish parliament website, under this new bill:

  • The Scottish Government must set up a Scotland-wide scheme to allow anyone who needs period products to get them free of charge
  • Schools, colleges and universities must make a range of period products available for free, in their toilets
  • The Scottish Government will have the power to make other public bodies provide period products for free.

Find out more here.

Pharmacy's part

This change is being welcomed by pharmacy teams and communities alike according to Emma Kilbride, pharmacist at Well Pharmacy in Baillieston, Glasgow.

“Some schools and universities had already been offering free products with great success, but now that it is a law there is the sense that the issue of period poverty is really being taken seriously,” she said.

“This is reassuring as lockdown saw almost a third of young women struggle to gain access to sanitary products. Young people in particular seem to have had a positive reaction and I think with the current cost of living crisis, this new law will help life anxiety that some people have when choosing whether to spend £3 on food or period products."

“So far we haven’t had guidance yet as pharmacy regarding supply to the public,” she continued. “It may become a similar scenario to free condom supply where some community pharmacies offer it, and others don’t.

“I have started to see these period products available for free in various public settings including sports halls and community centres and I think there is now an app where you can enter your postcode to see where your nearest free supply is.

“I hope that as this becomes the 'norm' the stigma around periods starts to go and more countries will follow suit.”

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