STUC backs campaign to end 'period poverty' for women

Latest development builds on MSPs’ calls for action

SCOTTISH TRADE UNIONISTS in Aviemore passed a motion on Tuesday backing the ‘Homeless Period’ campaign which aims to ensure tampons/sanitary towels are made available to homeless shelters by the Scottish Government.

The motion, which was proposed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in Scotland, also called on the Scottish Government “to undertake a review on the affordability of feminine hygiene products and introduce measures to address the inequality of access to sanitary products for women and girls in Scotland”.

Seconding the motion, Unison’s Kate Ramsden recalled a speech by Thiabitha Kumalo of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions from 10 years ago to a Unison conference when she asked the union for support for Dignity Period, a charity set up by ACTSA to provide sanitary wear for women in Zimbabwe.

Ramsden added: “But it is an ongoing issue not just in the developing world but here in the UK.

“At a time in Scotland when you can get medication for free, why on earth does sanitary wear cost, and cost so much?” Kate Ramsden

“I am just as appalled at the indignity and the health implications of women and girls across the UK – in the sixth richest country in the world – being unable to afford sanitary wear.

“At a time in Scotland when you can get medication for free, why on earth does sanitary wear cost, and cost so much?”

In response to a comment from Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison when she said that “feminine hygiene is not a health issue”, Ramsden said: “It is most definitely a health issue. What do women and girls do when they can’t afford sanitary wear? Maybe not bark and leaves but most certainly other unsuitable materials, which can result in a risk of serious and sometimes life-threatening infections.”

“Shona Robison is simply wrong to say it’s not a health issue because ‘menstruation is normal’.” Kate Ramsden

“Shona Robison is simply wrong to say it’s not a health issue because ‘menstruation is normal’. Yes, it is, but having the wherewithal to deal with it appropriately is entirely income dependent.”

STUC annual congress believes that “access to feminine hygiene products is a health issue. To remain healthy and safe during menstruation, women and girls need adequate access to sanitary towels and related products. Health complications, including risk of infection and toxic shock can result from lack of access to feminine hygiene products.”

Ramsden said: “It should not be about charity. It should not be about dropping off a packet of tampons or sanitary pads at your local food bank every once in a while, though no doubt that would be very welcome meantime.

“It should be about a right for women and girls to access sanitary products whatever their means. It is about dignity and respect for all women.”

“Access to sanitary products during menstruation is essential for good health and hygiene.” Monica Lennon

Congress welcomed the motion and debate that took place last September in the Scottish Parliament, tabled by Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, highlighting the affordability of feminine hygiene products for girls and women across Scotland.

The motion received cross-party support from SNP MSPs Gillian Martin and Gail Ross, Scottish Labour’s Rhoda Grant and the Scottish Conservatives’ Annie Wells and Alison Harris.

Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon said: “The STUC congress represents thousands of workers across Scotland so I'm pleased to be working with trade unions to tackle period poverty and advance women's rights.

“Access to sanitary products during menstruation is essential for good health and hygiene.

Read more – Women for Independence launches national survey on women's access to sanitary products

Last month, Lennon took her battle to tackle period poverty to Holyrood by launching private member’s bill.

The bill aims to help women who cannot access or afford sanitary products.

Lennon added: “My member’s bill will be seeking to change the law as well as attitudes so that no woman in Scotland has to go without products which are essential to their health.”

Picture courtesy of 小草

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