17 year old Eva Carroll is a member of the UK Youth Parliament, Former Young Lord Mayor of Liverpool, and an ambassador for Plan International UK. Eva dreams of a period positive and equal world and has pledged to end period poverty and stigma as part of her campaign.
I was motivated to become an activist in this area by the lack of education I got in primary school, by all the times I had hidden a pad up my sleeve as I walked across the school canteen to the toilet and by all the times I didn’t have enough money on me to buy the necessities I needed for my period. The lack of education, stigma and affordability of periods has been identified by Plan International as the toxic trio surrounding menstruation.
When I left my high school, I felt obliged to make sure this toxic trio was not present for people in my college. When I was elected Student President for my college I asked for free period products to be provided in the toilets. I felt scared and apprehensive about doing this- especially as I had to go through several male members of staff. But I persevered and within three days over 60 pads and tampons had been used and continue to be used today. This meant that free products were provided, tackling the affordability, and that periods were discussed, tackling the stigma.
We all have the power to make small differences like these. You have the power to go into your school, college or workplace and ask them to do the same thing- the worst thing that happens is they will say no, but they might just say yes.
I would love to see a world in the future where in every public and private space there is communal access to period products, just like toilet paper.
In this way, we can lighten the taboo and promote education, as visibility encourages discussion through which we can become more empowered to talk and ask questions about our bodies.
As a young MP, my priorities are to continue to tackle the toxic trio around periods on a local and national scale.
For example, although the average age for girls to start having periods is 12, about nine per cent will start before they’ve moved up to secondary school, and I was one of these girls. Puberty is covered in schools, but not until Year 5.
If I hadn’t had such an open mum who had already talked to me about puberty, I would have been completely terrified. This is a reality for far too many today with some girls believing the blood is blue due to adverts portraying it as so and others unable to recognize when something is wrong with their periods, or some being too embarrassed to go the doctors.
Education needs to be earlier and better; I was only taught how to use a pad, let alone a tampon or menstrual cup which is much more environmentally friendly and works well for many people. Something I feel really strongly about is the need to scrap tampon tax.; I think it’s ludicrous that period products are termed as a “luxury” and “non essential” item. With 14.3 million people living in poverty in the UK as of 2017/18, I think this should be a priority.
According to research by Plan International UK, a staggering 49% of girls in the UK have missed an entire day of school because of their period. We need to ensure products and toilets in schools are easily available with adequate provision of bins for disposable menstrual products; this should apply to unisex, accessible in boys’ toilets as well as girls’, to support all genders who menstruate.
I dream of a world where people who experience periods are not judged by a mundane part of their lives, a world where we can do anything we want knowing that there will be a free source of period products nearby and feeling confident enough to ask for directions to where they are.