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Scotland has become the first country in the world to give low-income women free access to sanitary products, in a pilot programme launched today.
The six-month initiative, which is being rolled out across a number of regeneration areas in Aberdeen, will be used to make a case for future Scottish government policies on sanitary-product provision.
Run by poverty prevention and social enterprise charity Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE), the pilot will first be offered to women’s health and housing charities, as well as four schools, with a view to extending the programme universally should the results support such a move.
The pilot comes after Gillian Martin MSP and Julie Hepburn, the SNP’s political education convenor, had a resolution passed at the SNP national council. Further developments later arose after Ms Martin worked with cabinet secretary, Angela Constance MSP.
“The overwhelming reason for women and people in general suffering poverty is the implementation of welfare reform”
CFINE’s chief executive, Dave Simmers, linked the growing issue of period poverty to increasingly severe austerity measures in the United Kingdom. Speaking to the Scotsman, he suggested that “the overwhelming reason for women and people in general suffering poverty is the implementation of welfare reform”.
Charities up and down the country have warned of similar issues in recent months, with Freedom4Girls, a sanitary-pad donation charity that normally works with schools in Kenya, having been contacted by a school in Leeds in March about large numbers of girls avoiding school due to a lack of access to affordable feminine-hygiene products.
MPs also recently discussed period poverty in the House of Lords and Commons, with Labour MP Helen Goodman one of a few to question “whether the government offers any provision of female sanitary products for women who consider themselves unable to afford such products” in the House of Commons.
The Scottish Government and CFINE project comes just under a year after Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokesperson, Monica Lennon MSP, called for the government to make a “firm commitment” to looking into the affordability of sanitary products, with a view to making them free to all women in Scotland.
A consultation on Ms Lennon’s bill proposal for the latter is currently underway.