Ending Period Poverty: Scotland's New Law Is a World's First

The Scottish government is the first in the world to make sanitary products available for free to all of its 395,000 students.


(Kunlanan Yarist / Shutterstock.com)

Sometimes there are issues of huge importance, that most of us never even realized existed because they don’t affect us. Scotland’s newest piece of legislation touches on exactly one such issue.

In August 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to make sanitary products available free to all of its students in schools and universities, vowing to put an end to period poverty.

A recent survey of more than 2,000 people by Young Scot found that one in four respondents at school, college or university struggled to access sanitary products. Research from Plan International found that one in 10 girls in the UK are unable to afford sanitary products. One in seven have to borrow products from their friends while one in 10 has had to improvise products; often using wads of toilet paper.

As a result, many girls are forced to stay home from school from fear of leakage and embarrassment and miss out on important parts of their education.

The Scottish parliament consulted with schools and organizations to see if there was support for the proposed legislation. The results of the consultation showed that an overwhelming majority of 98 percent was in favor.

Some of the organizations that conducted the surveys published personalized responses from women. One wrote, “Throughout school many of my friends missed classes because they did not have sanitary products and didn't want to rely on pants wrapped in tissue paper to be adequate. This came along with periods being a taboo subject - girls at my school, including myself, did not feel like we could ask other students or teachers if there were any available. More than one of my friends took the week off school ‘sick’ because they were unable to afford sanitary products and were too embarrassed to say.”

Another respondent said, “When I was young and menstruating, I struggled to afford sanitary products. … The worst experience was if I started menstruating at school, had no products, and not enough money to purchase from the vending machine. Can you imagine how it felt to have an improvised pad out of toilet paper? The worry that it might leak? The discomfort? And then the stress of getting the money to buy products – when you are only 12 and already horrified by the whole damn thing? … It should not happen anymore. There is no excuse.”

The sanitary products are available to any person who menstruates (regardless of their gender identity), and a range of different products will be offered so that people have a choice of what to use depending on their needs or desires.

What is really great about the new initiative is that the students will have access to products year-round, even during holidays, so that no girl in Scotland will have to make-do without anymore and period poverty will be relegated to the past.

How to Change the World by Changing Your Underwear
The Kit That Makes Menstruation Safer in Developing Areas
This Beauty Brand Gives 100% of Its Profits to Girls in Need