Under 25? Help West Leeds tackle period poverty!

15 September 2019

Free period products will soon be available across Leeds in schools and community hubs – and under 25s are being asked to help this happen by entering a new competition, writes Keely Bannister.

Young people are being asked to enter their design ideas for the products.

Judges are looking for an original and eye catching design, brand name and logo created using no more than four colours with the winner getting to work with graphic designers to bring their creations to life.

The winner will also be rewarded with shopping vouchers for Trinity Leeds.

Entries should be submitted no later than Monday 23rd September by e-mail to thriving@leeds.gov.uk, handed in to a local community centre or by post addressed to Amelia Gunn, Children & Families, Leeds City Council, Merrion House, Merrion Way, Leeds LS2 8PD.

Leeds City Council pledged to provide free sanitary products for young people in an attempt to eradicate period poverty – when a person struggles or is unable to access sanitary products due to financial constraints – in December 2018.

A pilot study is being conducted in a Leeds school with the research findings to be used to “generate sustainable, long term solutions for tackling period poverty in Leeds”.

The scheme will also include lobbying the government to declassify sanitary products as ‘luxury items’, and to remove the 5% VAT on these products.

West Leeds already has a track record on actions to tackle period poverty.

For instance, Priesthorpe school and Farsley Co-op have taken part in The Red Box Project, which distributes sanitary products to those that need them.

All political groups of councillors have welcomed the bid to end period poverty in the city.

hannah bithell kirkstall
Cllr Hannah Bithell

Kirkstall Councillor Hannah Bithell (Lab) set out the problem facing many young people in Leeds in a personal and emotional council speech in support of the move to provide free sanitary products earlier this year.

Ms Bithell, a teacher, explained her own worries around periods before going on to explain how period poverty affects children’s education:

“On Christmas Eve I burst into tears not because I hadn’t bought the right presents or organised the right food but because my period had started.  I was spending Christmas at my in-laws’ house where a lot of their beautiful furniture is very lightly coloured. This meant that I knew I’d be stressed and nervous the whole time that my period had leaked.  

“Now my fears were vastly unfounded but I guarantee that any councillor in here that’s ever had a period has felt that fear of standing up and turned around to check their seat.  Would today be the day they have to face that humiliation. My fears were vastly unfounded because I have access to sanitary protection. I know that unless it’s a particularly unfortunate period I’m fine.  

“This is not the case for a number of young people in our schools and communities.  For these students it isn’t a case of asking whether they have leaked but how far they can hide the chair below the desk when they have.  I would love to be able to tell you that I’ve never found blood on chairs after classes have left. Indeed I’d love to be able to tell you it only happened once.  

“This is not just about these students humiliation though it’s about their access to education and therefore their future.  For obvious reasons many of these girls are unable to come into school when on their period this means they have horrendously low attendance figures.  Attendance figures which have been proven to lower grades at the end of their school career.”

At this year’s annual budget meeting, the Conservative group moved an amendment seeking to commit an additional £100,000 to help tackle the issue of period poverty. 

In his speech in support of the measure, Councillor Alan Lamb (Cons, Wetherby) said:

“It cannot be acceptable that in the 21st century girls are unable to afford access to sanitary products and as a consequence their education is affected as is their self esteem. 

“We welcome Government action in this area, we welcome the things the council has done but we would commit additional resources to enable schools to provide direct support to girls both in terms of free products and pastoral support.  Through this we hope to make a significant contribution to ending period poverty in Leeds for good.”

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