Silver Disco Daps

Another bloody battle to fight 

In the week of International Women’s Day, I’ve been thinking about the battles we’re still fighting. As I’ve written in this column, it’s a day that increasingly makes me feel torn.

Celebrating inspirational women is, of course, a good thing. But we have a bloody long way to go when it comes to equality, and I want to explore one of those bloody battles – namely, periods.

Periods are normal. We all have or have had them or know people who do. And yet, they remain the cause of stigma and shame for so many girls and women. In this cost-of-living crisis, it’s sad that many consider period products a luxury rather than a necessity. 

Welsh Government and local authorities have done much work to make Wales a place of period dignity. So what does this mean? At its most basic level, period dignity is about respect and removing any stigma and shame around periods. It’s also about education, helping people understand that periods are normal and healthy. And it’s about equality, ensuring no one faces period poverty. 

I see this period poverty in my casework as a local councillor, and it breaks my heart that research by Plan International UK found that 49 per cent of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period. 59 per cent of these girls have made up a lie to avoid going to school. Over the course of a year, 137,700 children in the UK miss school because of period poverty.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic made the problem worse. Over one million girls struggled to afford or access period products during the pandemic, and the cost-of-living crisis is likely to make things worse.

No specific statistics on period poverty exist for Wales, which is puzzling. After all, how can we manage (or even better, fix) what we don’t measure? But in a country where an estimated 31% of children live in poverty – the highest percentage of any UK nation – the tough choices girls and families must make are clear.

It’s heartening that Welsh Government has invested £9 million into reducing period poverty in Wales. It’s also great to see a Welsh business, Caerphilly-based hygiene specialist PHS Group, leading the sector and investing significant resources into raising awareness of period dignity. PHS is an FTSE 250 company, and it’s great to see such a big business doing its bit. Responsible capitalism in action! We love to see it.

Meanwhile, all local authorities in Wales receive funding from Welsh Government, called the ‘Period Dignity Grant’, to help tackle period poverty. Each school can spend their funds as they choose with the same objective – providing free period products in the most practical and dignified way.

On paper, this all sounds great. But girls and young women have complained that products are still not reaching those who need them. Instead, students report period products locked away in cupboards or schools failing to make students aware of them. In addition, a shocking 70% of girls aren’t allowed to go to the toilet during school lessons. 

This is not ok. 

Last year, a tenacious, passionate young Cardiff woman called Molly Fenton contacted me about this problem. When Molly realised that access to period products was an issue in her high school, she decided to do something about it. So she set up the Love Your Period Campaign in 2019 to promote young people’s voice in government decisions around period dignity and to break the stigma around the female body. 

Four years later, Molly has built a team of over 50 volunteers and works with the UK and Welsh governments on legislation change. Her team also provide menstruation education online, in schools, and to whoever may need it. It’s so easy to get fleetingly incensed about a perceived injustice, vent on social media and move on without doing anything to change it. Lord knows we’re all guilty of that.

But here is a young woman who identified a problem, saw the need to fix it, and now dedicates countless hours to vocal campaigning. 

Since setting up Love Your Period, Molly has led a series of projects, including running homeless collections, donating reusable products for NHS staff during the pandemic, offering dedicated support for LGBTQIA+ people and setting up an advice line for parents as well as children. She has won a St David’s Award for her work and a Points of Light award for outstanding volunteers making a change in their community.

During the week of International Women’s Day, I want to shine a light on Molly’s work because it matters. Wales is the first country in the world to legislate for children that haven’t been born yet, in the form of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. But legislation and action plans – as vital as they are – aren’t enough. We need young people passionate about the inequality they see around them to campaign, raise their voices and pressure institutions that aren’t delivering planned change quickly enough. Young women and girls of the future will thank Molly for her work on ensuring period dignity for all.

In the same way so many women today are grateful to Emmeline Pankhurst, Angela Davis, and Simone De Beauvoir (the list could go on, but darn word counts), I hope Molly’s work will serve as a clarion call to the young activists of the future. Because until these battles are won, we need passionate young campaigners to lead the charge and inspire future leaders to pick up the baton.

“My work isn’t done, and I won’t stop until every single person that menstruates has the dignity they deserve”, says Molly.

She truly is a force to be reckoned with. I just despair that, in 2023, it continues to be so (bloody) difficult to be a woman. 


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Hello. I’m Sara. This site is home to my writing for the Western Mail, a newspaper kind enough to publish my internal ramblechats. In 2022 I was named Wales Media Awards Columnist of The Year for this column. Madness. You’ll find me spaffing opinions on feminism, inequality, festivals, tech, art and whatever else pops into my head at 3am the day before deadline. There’s also bonus content, when the muse takes me (WHERE IS SHE TAKING ME? I DIDN’T ORDER THIS CAB! Etc…).

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