Brook’s Let’s talk. Period project is committed to tackling period poverty in England. Ella Craddock, Senior Education and Wellbeing Co‑ordinator, has been working with the team in Manchester since the project launched.
Let’s talk. Period launched in October 2018 with seven teams across England, providing vulnerable young people with period products and education. The project, which is funded by the DCMS Tampon Tax Fund, will end in March 2020 and we’ve already exceeded our target of working with more than 4,600 young people. So far, 77% of the young people we’ve worked with are under 16.
When we launched, our teams carefully mapped their areas to identify the young people most in need of our support. This has been in a range of settings, from residential supported living accommodation to youth clubs, pupil referral units and young mum’s groups. We have also been proactively engaging those who have sometimes been left out of the conversation, creating bespoke sessions for Trans and non-binary groups, as well as those with special education needs and disabilities.
We’ve found that the need for education about the menstrual cycle and bodies has been vital for all the young people we’ve worked with. Our sessions always challenge stigma and shame which often surrounds discussions of menstruation. Even the language we use about periods needs to be questioned; if we’re calling products ‘sanitary items’ does that mean periods are ‘unsanitary’? The answer is no! That’s why we always prefer to say period products or menstrual products.
Sometimes it’s hard to challenge the stigma because young people are so used to seeing adverts where products use language such as ‘fresh’ and ‘clean’, which implies that periods are dirty –which they aren’t.
Our sessions aim to empower participants to understand their bodies and cycles better and to feel confident to ask for help if needed.
We offer a whole range of products to the young people we work with including pads, tampons, menstrual cups and period pants. We’ve found that pads have been most popular, accounting for 85% of the products we have provided.
Interestingly, menstrual cups have proved more popular than expected with 369 given out so far. Our planned focus groups will give us an opportunity to explore further the factors that influence young people’s preferences.
A big focus of our education sessions is dispelling myths. For example, many young people worry that tampon use will affect their ‘virginity’ or get lost inside them. We talk more about virginity and tampons in this in Mooncup blog.
Starting with simple anatomy is essential in our sessions, as so many young people (and even sometimes the school staff) don’t know the basics of the vagina / vulva and reproductive organs.
We know that the project is making a huge difference to the lives of young people. One young person who attended the Liverpool focus group said, “I liked it, it was a safe and calm environment which made it easy to ask questions without feeling embarrassed”. Another young person said, “The whole thing is really good as my family used to struggle with the cost. It was really hard, and I often missed school. Boys teased me as well”.
In spring 2019, the Department for Education announced that they will provide free period products in all schools across England from early 2020. This is fantastic news and we are delighted that to be part of the conversation that has led to this meaningful change. However, we know through the success of Let’s Talk. Period that products are only part of the solution and we must never underestimate the importance of educating young people. We recently collaborated with LiL-Lets to launch a free elearning course all about periods and puberty. This course is absolutely key for any teachers or parents who want a helping hand in having these vital conversations.
Brook wants a society where all young people are free to be themselves. We’re striving for period equality with education at its heart, in a whole school or whole organisation approach. That means not only educating those who menstruate but all staff, teachers and young people who don’t have periods too.
Find out more about the project on our website.