In case you haven't seen it in the news, or don't live in Wales, you might not know the news but it's a big debate at the moment. In a bid to tackle period poverty Rhondda Cynon Taf council have  voted to provide sanitary products for free to all schools, which could start in September if they get the votes of a full council. This has been a controversial decision, however, as more councils in Wales look to whether  this is something they want to persue, mainly because it's estimated to cost the council £70,000 a year, which does seem quite steep. You can read more about the scheme specifically here.
Now as I've been talking a lot about sanitary products recently, and will be doing more in future, I decided to get involved in the debate about this and was actually on BBC Radio Wales on Tuesday saying my little piece and getting involved in the debate. It's safe to say I was a lot more nervous than I expected to be and I don't quite think I got my points across properly so here is this post, to talk about a lot of the points that were made and give my own take on the whole thing.

But why is it such a big issue? Well that's because of period poverty, there are parts of Wales which have pretty high levels of poverty -RCT has 72% of residents live in the most deprived half of Wales. And this means that a lot of young girls can't afford to buy sanitary products, which has an adverse effect on their schooling and further affects their well being and happiness.

Now to me it seems like a pretty basic idea to provide sanitary products for free in toilets in schools, I mean there's toilet paper and soap so why not sanitary products? Not only for those who cannot afford them -for whom it would be invaluable- but for girls caught short, or having their first period.

But there is a £70,000 price tag, and that's just for the pilot scheme.

The price was the main reason that most people seemed to be adverse to the scheme, it seemed like a lot of money for one council to be spending on products that a lot of people felt people "should be able to buy themselves".

One woman on the show made a big impact of opinions and made a few odd, and in my opinion irrelevant, points but her main one was that she simply didn't believe that people just couldn't "stand on their own two feet" and buy their own sanitary products,  and didn't seem to agree with free school meals for kids from poorer backgrounds either. Talking about the fact that we've lived through two world wars and now people want everything handed to them. But I'm sure during the war there were many people who couldn't afford sanitary products and used different things, rags, socks, you name it, it was probably used. Do we really want people to have to go back to times like that?  

A lot of people were also of the opinion that these girls just need to budget better, that they probably have an iphone and lots of make up and really need to get their priorities straight. And while I'm sure there are plenty of people generally (hello all my fellow students) that need to learn to budget better there are also people out there who are living with absolutely no money to spare, some people who do genuinely have to chose between buying food and buying sanitary products (which aren't cheap being taxed as a luxury). And on the other side of the debate many people came back saying that the situation was actually that bad, that they'd lived through not even asking their parents for a pound to go buy tampons because there simply wasn't a pound there to give, and that's when they were only £1.

People like The Red Box Project also had their say, they're a charity who donate free "First period" kits to schools so that they can be given to girls who need them, and continue to give girls products month after month if needs be. They work directly with schools and with young girls and see the problem first hand with girls missing school because they simply don't have access to sanitary products, and are trying to use products they can source elsewhere. This is a great charity -which you can donate to here- but realistically they're not going to be able to reach all the girls in the Wales who need these products, so I personally think that a government scheme would be a lot better at helping girls facing period poverty. In Wales in 2018 periods shouldn't be a barrier stopping girls from getting an education, nothing should.

In the long run, £70,000 for just one council per year does sound like a lot of money., but if it works then I think it's worth it. I personally think that better alternatives to expensive one use sanitary products is needed. Maybe giving girls who need them free menstrual cups, reusable pads, or period underwear (like I talked about last week). Products that have a much longer lifetime and therefore would be cheaper for councils longer term. Whether these are provided in schools or given to family planning clinics, which are already invaluable tools for access to free contraception and  education and could also become valuable tools to access sanitary products and education too! But that's just by two cents.

So I didn't come off to well on the radio (oh well it was a start) but hopefully came off better here. Do you agree with the scheme? Think it could be done better? Don't think it should be done at all?