Sharmila Thokra Tamang, Team Leader, conducing menstrual Pad making workshop.

Period poverty: ending stigma around the world

Period Poverty: A Bloody Big Issue

This Saturday we’re teaming up with Bloody Good Period  – an organisation which  provides period supplies to asylum seekers, refugees & those who can’t afford them – for an event about Period Poverty.

Our Campaigns Team regularly poll our network of young people in the UK to vote on an issue they’re interested in, that is relevant both globally and locally. We then support a group of event volunteers to design, plan, run and lead the event itself.

The event has been featured in  Elle  among its ‘Guide To The Events Tackling Period Poverty.’  You can find out more about this Saturday’s event here.

Previous Youth Decide events have been on: Brexit, Refugees and Migration, Mental Health, The Social Media Echo Chamber, and UK Aid.

What is period poverty?

Having a period can be expensive.  An average woman has around 450 periods in her lifetime. That’s an estimated £4,800 spend on sanitary pads alone.

Currently sanitary and period products aren’t free, leaving the poorest unable to access them.

Period poverty first hit public consciousness following the release of the Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, featuring a scene where struggling single mother is caught stealing sanitary pads.

It’s an issue that is increasingly affecting women and young girls across the UK. But it doesn’t stop there.

Girls face stigma around their periods, with nearly half of girls in the UK admitting to feeling embarrassed by them.

The facts:

Recent Plan International UK research found that girls from poorer socio-economic backgrounds find it difficult to access sanitary pads. Cutting across all backgrounds is the stigma that women and young girls face when talking about their periods.

Here are some key findings from the report:

Periods can be expensive:

  • One in ten girls (10 per cent) have been unable to afford sanitary wear;
  • One in seven girls (14 per cent) have had to ask to borrow sanitary wear from a friend due to affordability issues;
  • More than one in ten girls (12 per cent) has had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues


  • Nearly half (48 per cent) of girls aged 14-21 in the UK are embarrassed by their periods;
  • 49 per cent of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period, of which 59 per cent have made up a lie or an alternate excuse;
  • Almost three-quarters (71%) of girls admitted that they have felt embarrassed buying sanitary products

What we do globally to tackle menstruation stigma:

Ending period stigma in Nepal

A feature in Dazed and Confused about our work.

“When [Durga] Bist became involved with Restless, she questioned her banishment to the chhaupadi hut. After learning about reproductive health and seeing chhaupadi as a form of gender based violence, she was inspired to rebel against the tradition.”


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Find out how ICS volunteers Natalie and Raj worked together to end the stigma around menstrual health in rural India

“We did one session where we delivered a menstruation session to male students. When we spoke to them they began to understand for the first time what was happening to their friends, their mothers and their sisters. It meant a lot for me to help them understand.” (Raj Aryan, ICS India Volunteer)

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Meet the young people making re-usable, affordable sanitary pads

The nurses in rural Uganda;

By the end of the sessions the girls were very openly asking questions and really engaged. We later went to the school to teach girls how to make reusable sanitary pads.

Jestina, a young volunteer in Sierra Leone;

To me, this is fulfilling, I feel so much relief  especially when we were able to find solutions to menstrual hygiene as one of the world’s most challenging problems facing young girls.

Sierra Leone_Period Poverty_2

A workshop at a school in Nepal;

Making menstrual pads
Sharmila Thokra Tamang, a Restless Development volunteer, conducting menstrual pad making workshop.


The young men standing up to period discrimination

Kishan, Raj and Saif all volunteers on our Making Periods Normal  project in north-east India, working to eliminate the stigma around menstruation by educating other young men on the topic.


Busting period poverty in the UK

And, while you’re at it, Larissa Kennedy – one of the guest who spoke  at our Youth Decide event on Saturday   – wrote an article for The Telegraph about busting some of the pervasive myths that still exist, both here and in the UK, about periods.


Period Poverty: A Bloody Big Issue

On Saturday 11th August Restless UK hosted a period poverty  Youth Decide event with Bloody Good Period.

Period Poverty A Bloody Big Issue

The event was featured fascinating discussions about the stigma around periods that still exist, in the UK and abroad. It also encouraged women and young girls to be #PeriodPositive and attendees to pledge to speak more openly about periods so that we can smash the stigma together.

Larissa Pledge

Some top tweets from the dayimage

Juliet Dowley
Juliet Dowley, a youth advocate from Girlguiding  spoke about the language and stigma we use  around periods and the campaign actions being taken to normalise periods in the UK.
Ruth Taylor
Ruth Taylor, Restless Development’s senior campaigns officer





Red Box tweet
We were joined by the Red Box project, a charity which provides free sanitary pads to schoolgirls across the UK. It’s estimated that around 137,700 girls miss school every year because they can’t afford sanitary products.



Charlie Ensor is a communications officer at Restless Development

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Period poverty: ending stigma around the world

by wearerestless Reading time: 4 min