Scotland is known for many things including lochs, whisky and haggis, to name a few, but it will now be known for leading the way when it comes to eliminating period poverty. The nation has become the first ever country to pass a law making period products free for anyone who needs them.
In November 2020, members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) unanimously approved an Act which makes free access to items such as tampons and sanitary pads a legal right. The act was put forward by Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, who said The Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Act 2021 was all the more important in light of the coronavirus pandemic. From Monday August 15, the Act will come into full force, making periods much more manageable for many.
Monica Lennon, who has spearheaded the campaign since she was elected to Holyrood in 2016, told the Scottish Parliament: “Providing access to free period products is fundamental to equality and dignity, and removes the financial barriers to accessing them.”
Period poverty – the struggle to pay for basic sanitary products on a monthly basis – has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, according to charities. A survey of more than 2,000 people by Young Scot found that about one in four respondents at school, college or university in Scotland had struggled to access period products. And now, the cost of living crisis has been a growing concern for women and girls.
About 10% of girls in the UK have been unable to afford period products; 15% have struggled to afford them; and 19% have changed to a less suitable product due to cost, according to research. Women are estimated to spend an average of £13 a month on period products and several thousand pounds over a lifetime.
Lennon told MSPs: “We have got here because we have worked together. We have shown that this Parliament can be a force for progressive change when we collaborate. Our prize is the opportunity to consign period poverty to history. In these dark times we can bring light and hope to the world this evening.”
Her Act was passed by 121 votes to zero after winning the support of the Scottish Government and the other opposition parties in Holyrood. The Labour MSP said: “On the issue of period dignity, I am beyond proud that Scotland is leading the way and we have moved at a fast pace in a short space of time.”
The legislation will also make it a requirement for schools, colleges and universities to provide the products for free, which was announced by first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in 2017. This was then a world first, while the Scottish government has also funded a project in Aberdeen to deliver free period products to low-income households as well as a further £4m for councils to continue the roll-out to other public places.
How to receive free period products?
To receive free period products in Scotland, the PickUpMyPeriod app is the most convenient way. Download the app to find the nearest location and go to the said location to pick up what you need. The app also has an advice section with resources on financial aid services, housing, food, domestic abuse, and more. And in the FAQs section, educational information will help tackle the pressing questions one might have about periods.