In a first world, developed country such as ours, it’s hard to believe we’re a society currently living off food banks and seeing a significant increase in those having to leave their homes and take to sleeping rough on our streets. Everyone needs food as a basic human requirement to survive, as well as clothes and shelter; all things offered by homeless charities, refuges and donations from the public. But what about other basics like hygiene – in particular – feminine hygiene. Have you ever stopped to think what a woman living on the streets does when she’s on her period?
The cost element of purchasing sanitary care is an obvious issue. But what about the basic right to dignity – where do you change your tampon or pad? what do you do with used ones? what do you do if you don’t have access to a pad or a tampon? The last one being the most worrying. Poor sanitary care can lead to infections and serious health problems. Many women are taking huge risks with their bodies by keeping tampons in for longer than they should to extend the longevity of them or using unhygienic items in lieu; such as dirty cloth. Some women who have been able to access free contraceptive pills have been dangerously running packs back to back, just to avoid the cost and hassle of having a cycle.
Feminine products as a whole are not seen as a basic female necessity. With heavy taxes imposed on sanitary products and ever increasing costs it’s becoming more and more expensive to be a women for everyone – not just those sleeping rough. And as they’re not seen as “essential items”, very little is being done by the government to help.
Fortunately for Manchester, there are several charities that do give shit. Who rely on donations from the public and businesses in order to provide much needed sanitary dignity to those in need. One such group is Every Month who host regular “period packing parties”. These parties are pretty much like a sleepover, where donations of tampons and pads are packed into paper bags with a chocolate bar, to be later distributed as gifts to women sleeping rough across the city. Tickets are varying prices are purchased in advance, with all proceeds used for buying supplies and donations on the day by all attendees are also more than welcome.
“Every Month: A blood great campaign. Period”
I must say, it’s a strangely liberating experience going to such an event, walking into a room full of strangers and within minutes discussing the in’s and out’s of various sanitary products, our personal preferences, how we found out about periods and then reflecting on things that wouldn’t be given a second thought normally, but would be a serious consideration for what you would do if homeless. Like “what would you do with the applicator?”. There’s something very honest and heartwarming about a group of ladies who don’t know each other coming together and being so honest and frank about something, normally so taboo – even amongst women.
It wasn’t all just tampon talk. The event was held in NQ’s Nexus Cafe, so cake and drinks were available to keep you going. There was also a screening of Thelma and Louise which kept everyone entertained throughout the evening and added to the me ‘Girl Power’ feeling I had when it came to the end of the event.
Rosy, the mastermind and inspirational human behind this incredible organisation had given everyone on arrival a template letter, outlining how we can address the issue to our local MPs. Whilst these events are fantastic to increase accessibility to sanitary care within the homeless community, the bottom line is – they shouldn’t even be needed. More should be done to support those sleeping rough, giving them the hygienic means and dignity to be a woman. The more pressure we put on those in power, the more likely it is more will be done. In the meantime, we all need to keep donating and supporting organisations like this as much as we can. Period.
For more information on how to get involved and about their next event check out: