By: Sian Walking, Marketing Manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene
28th May marks Menstrual Hygiene Day, an international awareness day that aims to create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage menstruation safely and hygienically. The campaign aims to break the silence, raise awareness and change negative social norms surrounding menstrual hygiene.
Even as a developed country, menstruation is still a taboo subject for many people in the UK and this can make it difficult for people to seek help or advice when it is needed. Worse still, many women and girls are victims of what has been termed ‘period poverty’ – a lack of access to sanitary products due to logistics or affordability. In fact, in the UK, more than half of females claim to have suffered from period poverty or know someone who has. Two thirds (68%) also said they have been forced to use makeshift protection before.
Progress is being made. In March this year, the government announced that free sanitary products would be made available in all secondary schools. In April it was decided that primary schools would also be included in this. This is a huge step. But there is still a long way to go until sanitary products do not carry a negative stigma and are recognised as ‘washroom essentials’ along with toilet paper, soap and hand drying facilities.
Whether a school, university, council facility or workplace, there is a duty of care towards visitors, students and employees to ensure appropriate amenities are available.
Offer complimentary products
Earlier this year the Scottish Government made £4 million of funding available to local councils, to place free tampons and sanitary towels in public buildings such as libraries and leisure centres. Many football clubs have also begun placing baskets containing free sanitary products in their washrooms. In fact, 88 football clubs have joined the ‘On the Ball’ campaign, which aims to tackle period poverty, and get more men talking about menstruation – helping to remove the negative stigma.
Another option for providing easy access to complimentary sanitary products is by installing a dedicated dispenser within the toilet cubicle. At Initial Washroom Hygiene, we’ve developed a small, discrete, compact unit, designed specifically to hold sanitary items and offer refills, which sits next to the toilet roll holder. This means female washroom users who cannot afford sanitary protection, or who have been caught off guard are provided with easy and free access to sanitary products. These units can then be re-stocked along with all other standard washroom provisions (such as soap and toilet paper), integrating sanitary products into a standard cycle of regular washroom servicing and maintenance.
If you don’t have a discrete and hygienic disposal service for sanitary waste in place – It’s highly likely that one of the following is happening: harmful waste is being is being flushed down the toilet, or women feel compelled to take their waste away with them.
Neither is acceptable. Sanitary items are one of the main culprits of toilet blockages, and despite popular belief, tampons are not easily biodegradable, so disposing of them this way can cause environmental damage.
Disposal units today come in all shapes and sizes. They can be operated manually, with a pedal or automatically via a no-touch sensor, and are specifically designed to sit conveniently beside the toilet. All cubicles should be equipped with a female hygiene unit to guarantee the wellbeing and hygiene of washroom users, and ensure waste is being disposed of in line with national health and safety legislation.
Campaigns for change
As well as making small changes to the washroom environment, there are many great campaigns that organisations can support to help minimise the negative stigma surrounding menstruation and to help put an end to period poverty in the UK and worldwide.
At Initial, we support Freedom4Girls – a UK registered charity actively supporting women and girls both in the UK and worldwide, who struggle to access or afford safe menstrual protection. For every Period Poverty Vending Dispenser we install, we donate £5 to Freedom4Girls as well as an additional donation of £1 for every box of sanitary refills ordered. More than £3,500 has been donated so far this year.
By supporting and promoting the work of these groups within your organisation, not only will you help raise awareness of period poverty, you’ll be normalising conversations about menstruation – helping to make the topic less of a taboo.
Providing complimentary sanitary products takes care of one basic need that many girls and women have, and it’s great to see this will soon be rolled out across all primary and secondary schools. It’s now time for businesses and councils to take a similar step, ensuring a dignified and hygienic washroom experience for all.