Bloody Good Period is a charity based in London and Leeds that provides sanitary products to those who cannot afford them, such as asylum seekers or refugees. Laura McDermott has a conversation with regional co-ordinator, Jess Strudwick, all about Bloody Good’s aim to end period poverty.
Bloody Good Period is a national charity that provides 25 asylum seeker centres across London and Leeds with period supplies. Yes, period supplies. Period, a word that fills many with sheer dread, due to the ancient unnecessary stigma that still surrounds the concept, even in 2019. Period! Why is it, that when half the population of the entire planet have a period once a month, the topic is still something associated with a sense of embarrassment and shame?
Period poverty has only recently become an issue in the public eye. Since periods have always been a taboo subject, it hasn’t been an evident problem to many: “Women have been suffering in silence, almost too scared or embarrassed to ask for pads when they really need them, purely down to how society treats the issue” states Jess. Bloody Good founder, Gabby Edlin, volunteered at a drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees, when it dawned upon her that they provided all the basic life necessities apart from period products. Pads were something that they only gave out in the ‘case of emergencies’. Bloody Good Period believes, “Every month should be treated as an emergency. If you need pads you need pads.” In that moment, lies the birth of Bloody Good Period, which now supplies period products to thousands of women and young girls all around the country.
Asylum seekers and refugees are given £37.75 to live on per week. Having a period in that week can take up a large chunk of that allowance. The harrowing thing, Jess tells me, is that women then substitute pads for “Socks, rags or tissues because they simply need the money for other things.” Women with children, for example, often cannot justify taking money from the small amount that they receive and putting it towards their period when the money could go towards dinner, or school books or Christmas presents. The type of substitutes that women make for pads, however, are extremely unsanitary and can lead to all sorts of health issues such as infection. This, in turn, creates an entirely new set of problems for such women to face.
Period poverty is not seen as a local issue, with the stereotype being that it only exists in developing countries; however, Jess tells me, “People often assume it’s not happening within their community or with people that they know. Women you speak to on a daily basis may be affected by period poverty but you would just have no idea that it is happening.” Many are blind to it by no fault of their own, but due to the lack of conversation around the issue. For this reason, Bloody Good direct people to volunteer and donate in their local areas, tackling an invisible problem that very much starts at home. “The general public are the ones helping us to fight against period poverty.”
In Leeds, Bloody Good is supporting drop-in centres who provide emotional and practical support to asylum seekers and refugees, such as Meeting Point in Armley. Jess kindly contacted Meeting Point, to find out the responses that Leeds based women have had to receiving the products from Bloody Good. One woman who had received the sanitary products said in her feedback: ‘You’re not “good”, Bloody Good Period – you’re GREAT! Thanks for helping us with what we need, and in the end giving us so much more.’ Another woman has said ‘I almost cried to know how much these people care... We will never forget what they all do for us.” And finally, “I used to save my pennies, go without and my children would go without. When you have so little, it means so much. Thank you Bloody Good Period. Like we say ‘you give us wings – real wings!”.
Bloody Good Period is at the centre of an ever-growing discussion within society, tackling some of the most prevalent egalitarian issues. Award-winning author Reni Eddo Lodge described Bloody Good Period as a charity that ‘strikes at the intersection of feminism, migration, race and injustice’; it is the structural prejudice, built within the foundations of society that is sustaining such a problem, undoubtedly intertwined with issues of class and race in a continuous cycle of period poverty. Statistics have shown for example, that over 137,700 young girls in the UK have missed school because of their period. But those girls will also have likely been from lower-class families, families with mothers who cannot afford products for themselves, they cannot afford to provide such products for the daughters either. They are missing school and important lessons that could (along with a multitude of other factors) mean that they are not being provided with the education to allow them to escape the poverty they are living within. Some may see this as a large logical leap to make, but each factor of structural injustice really does add up.
Bloody Good Period are aiming to end period poverty. This is a goal that in some ways is so near to being achieved and yet in other ways still so far. Jess tells me that their “Main plan for the future is to work on a strategy in which Bloody Good essentially no longer has to exist, as free period products should be provided for everyone.” Going on she explains, “People shouldn’t have to rely on donations from the public; products should be available in public places such as schools, hospitals and workplaces. Toilet paper is given out for free everywhere because it is seen as a necessity; when a woman is on her period, pads are a necessity too.’
We need to break the taboo surrounding the topic of periods. The entire stigma is created as a result of the societally conditioned reaction from the general public to something which essentially is so normal. Jess finishes by telling me: “We want to change people’s view around periods. Even just to get people talking! We want people to no longer shy away from it, due to the societal pressures that make women feel like it is something disgusting’.
So, let’s get talking! Talk about period poverty and the injustice that many, such as asylum seekers and refugees face. Talk about the normality of something every woman has to go through and endure.
Nice People will be holding a Bloody Good collection at Hyde Park Book Club. If you can, pop into your local shop and pick up a packet of pads for a few quid. Whether you have a period or not (boys I’m lookin at u), it is something that will mean a lot to someone else!
Words by Laura McDermott
Illustrations by Lauren Morsley (@laurenmorsley.com)