To coincide with International Women’s Day, a survey developed by Young Scot and the Scottish Government found that, in the last year, around one-in-four (26%) survey respondents at school, college or university had struggled to access sanitary products.
The Scottish Government has made a public commitment to make sanitary products available for free in schools, colleges and universities in Scotland. This research, carried out by Young Scot, surveyed 2,050 people to help the Scottish Government consider the best way to deliver free sanitary products. The majority of those that answered the survey were currently in secondary school, college or university (92%).
Of those respondents in school, university or college who had struggled to access sanitary products, 60% couldn’t access the product they needed. Nearly three quarters (71%) had to ask someone else for a tampon or towel or use an alternative such as toilet paper (70%).
The survey asked how people would prefer to access free products in the future. The most popular option was to have them available for free in school, university or college toilets, while the least popular option was to have them available from a member of staff. The second most popular option was to receive a card they could use to get free sanitary products from shops.
Over 180 people wrote an anonymous open letter with the title ‘Dear Period’. Their letters highlight that the main difficulties faced during their periods were the physical impacts as well as many finding the topic of periods taboo due to stigma. Half (51%) of those who wrote letters highlighted that accessibility to sanitary products could be improved.
One participant wrote: “It’s great to be a girl. But sometimes things that come with being a girl can make life difficult. It’s no secret that many people in Scotland find it difficult to afford or access sanitary products. This can lead to girls missing school and so losing out on vital education. This effects a girl’s learning and therefore how well she does in school. It can lead to major issues in adulthood such as unemployment and health issues. More awareness needs to be spread around this issue as it is extremely important and has a huge impact on our society and our country.”
Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: “It is unacceptable that anyone in Scotland should be unable to access sanitary products and we know that young people in particular can face barriers when it comes to asking for help. This important research by Young Scot goes some way to help us understand how we – and our partners – can reduce the stigma around periods and make products freely available to those in education in a way that meets their needs.”
Louise Macdonald, Chief Executive of Young Scot, said: “No one should ever have to experience stigma or stress when accessing sanitary products and the students who took part in the survey are really supportive of the idea of free sanitary products in their schools, universities and colleges. As well as helping all students, free sanitary products will have a huge impact and make a real difference to young people during an important point of transition into adulthood.”
For more information about the findings of this survey please visit young.scot/periods