Girls using toilet roll instead of sanitary products, study finds

14 March 2018, 14:27

Calendar with sanitary products on it

More than two fifths of girls have used toilet roll to manage their period because they could not afford sanitary products, a new survey has found.

The study by girls' rights charity Plan International UK found 45% of those living in Scotland said they have been forced to use makeshift sanitary wear including socks or newspapers because they have struggled to buy products.

It also found more than a quarter of girls (27%) said they had used a sanitary product for longer than its intended use because they could not afford to use a fresh one, posing potential health risks.

The charity is calling for the introduction of a card scheme which provides free sanitary products to young people as well as training and advice to tackle the lack of education and stigma it says still exists around periods.

It suggests councils could pilot a "P-card" scheme based on the current "C-card" scheme which provides free condoms and sexual health advice to those aged 13-24 years old.

Tanya Barron, Plan International UK chief executive, said: "Period poverty is a challenge facing many girls in the UK, and it's devastating to hear that some girls are suffering from health conditions because they can't afford to properly manage their periods.

"Proposals for schools to give free products to girls struggling with the cost of managing their period can certainly play a role, but what's really needed is a response to period poverty that's more nuanced.

"Handing out free products will only solve part of a very complex problem, what's needed alongside this is education and training for girls, schools and parents to help tackle the stigma and embarrassment around periods as well as the cost - after all this is the root cause of the problem."

The study also looked at the impact of schoolgirls not being able to access a toilet during lesson time, with 64% of girls saying they were not allowed to do so.

Almost a quarter (23%) of girls surveyed said they had missed a day of school as a result of the ban because they knew they would not be allowed to go to the toilet during lesson time.

The survey questioned 1004 girls aged 14-21 across the UK, including 81 from Scotland.

Plan International UK has launched a Menstrual Manifesto proposing measures including better, more regular education about menstruation, and school policies that do not restrict girls from accessing the toilets when they are on their period.