13 Jul

Credit: Molly Fenton

During the end of May, a young activist from Cardiff delivered period stories from students across the UK to 10 Downing Street, as part of a new campaign by charity Irise International.

Tilly Fenton, aged 16 and co-founder of the Love Your Period Campaign, carried the stories to the official residence and office of the UK's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, before taking part in a parade in Westminster to mark Menstrual Hygiene Day on Sunday, 28th May.

Tilly and her older sister Molly, from Cardiff, launched Love Your Period in 2019 with the main aim of ending period poverty and stigma for school pupils across Wales.

Now, the pair regularly speak at events across the UK, and work with the likes of Cardiff Council and the Welsh Government.

In research conducted by a group of UK charities earlier this year, it was found that a shocking 1 in 10 schools still don't provide free period products to students, with 13% of girls stating that their school or college doesn't offer any at all.

As well as this, it was discovered that a third of young girls are missing school due to a lack of care or access to period products - working out to be over 3 million days missed every year.

44% of young girls also feel too embarrassed to ask for period products when at school.

In order to show schools why period dignity matters, Irise International, an award-winning global leader in period equality, has brought together young activists from across the UK to launch its campaign Every Period Counts, which they hope will shift the shame from young students back to those in power.

The campaign is gathering horror stories from young people across the country, with over 100 having been submitted in the first 24 hours of it going live.

One student has shared her experiences of having a period in school, saying:

"My teachers don't let me go to the toilet on my period. Or just at all. And the ones that do, say I can't take my bag, but then everyone would see my products. I wish they'd put some in the toilets, like on the wall in the cubicle, so you could just have them there and then."

Tilly Fenton (left) and Molly Fenton (right), co-founders of the Love Your Period Campaign - Credit: Molly Fenton

Irise International is calling for period dignity to be recognised through three key actions:

  • For all schools in the UK to make free period products available in a shame-free way to everyone in need of them.
  • The UK Government to commit to a new action plan for getting rid of period poverty and shame in schools by 2025.
  • Politicians to make period dignity a right by legislating for it in England and Wales.

Tilly explained:

"During my year 10 English Language exam, I leaked on my exam chair and went 2 hours sitting and not saying a word. At this time, products were hidden away in the cupboards, and none were available in the exam venue. At the end of the exam, I broke down as I didn't know what to do. My school had locked the girls' toilets, and we only had one unisex toilet."

Emily Wilson, Irise's CEO, said:

"Young people are sick of missing out on class, sports and other opportunities because society won’t prioritise their basic needs. They are done with feeling ashamed and are claiming their right to menstruate with dignity in UK schools.

"Period poverty and shame are getting worse due to the cost-of-living crisis, meaning that more young people are experiencing anxiety and indignity every month and missing out on crucial education as a result."

Individuals taking part in the period parade in London's Westminster on May 28th - Credit: Molly Fenton

Amelia Whitworth, Head of Policy at Plan International UK, commented:

"We stand with Irise campaigners, shedding light on their experiences in order to see the change that is long overdue. It is vital that nobody misses out on learning because of being on their period."

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