2020 applicants
News

Can we end period poverty?

  • Date

    Wed 7 Nov 18

Period poverty campaign poster

Statistics suggest one in ten girls in Britain cannot afford sanitary items, but period poverty is not a new phenomenon. Historian Dr Kate Mahoney is shedding light on the issue through public events in Colchester and Southend.

‘Seeing Red: Periods and Protest’ will explore how histories of menstruation and health activism in the post-war years inform issues around period poverty today. It includes a panel discussion, with historians and local campaigners, in Colchester on 15 November, and an exhibition at the Beecroft Gallery in Southend on 24 November.

The events are part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Being Human Festival and are supported by Essex’s Department of History.

Dr Mahoney explained why period poverty is such an important issue in the twenty-first century: “Statistics published by Plan International show that one in ten girls in Britain have been unable to afford sanitary items, 12% of girls have had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues, using socks and tissues instead, and one in five girls have changed to less suitable products due to cost. These girls often feel unable to go to school and their confidence and academic achievements suffer.”

The panel discussion, featuring Essex historian Dr Tracey Loughran and feminist activist Lauren Mittell, will consider the role of health activism in addressing these issues.

Dr Kate Mahoney
"By calling out the influence of historical representations that make us feel embarrassed about our bodies, we want to reinforce the fact that periods are nothing to be ashamed of."
Dr Kate Mahoney department of history

“Health activism takes many forms, from large scale public protests to small local groups providing support, like those formed in the 1960s and 1970s. Today campaigns and initiatives like #FreePeriods, the Red Box Project and Bloody Good Period are doing amazing work raising awareness while also collecting donated sanitary items for those who need them most,” added Dr Mahoney.

‘Seeing Red’ also provides an opportunity to reflect on the historical influences such as the attitudes of doctors, articles in magazines and advertising, which have sometimes contributed to the shame and embarrassment that still surrounds menstruation today.

The exhibition in Southend will feature posters, calling for an end to period poverty, designed by Essex schoolchildren and girl guiding groups at a series of workshops. Visitors will be able to design their own posters and explore the historical influences that inspired those on display.

“By calling out the influence of historical representations that make us feel embarrassed about our bodies, we want to reinforce the fact that periods are nothing to be ashamed of,” said Dr Mahoney.

The ‘Seeing Red: Periods and Protest in Post-War Britain’ panel discussion takes place at 7.30pm on Thursday 15 November at Essex’s Colchester Campus. Book your place online.

The Seeing Red exhibition at the Beecroft Gallery in Southend is open 10am to 5pm on Saturday 24 November.