Why I want boys to care about periods

At the start of 2020, the government made a big announcement about periods: sanitary products like tampons and pads will now be available, for free, in all state schools and colleges in England.

This is excellent news in the fight against period poverty, but why should boys care? Katherine, a Maths teacher in an all-boys London school has been working to involve her students in the conversation around period poverty.

What is period poverty?

Period poverty is when people who need them don’t have access to safe, hygienic sanitary products – either because they can’t afford them, or in some cases because of the stigma surrounding menstruation.

It’s a global issue, but here in the UK one in ten girls aged between 14 and 21 have been unable to afford sanitary products, according to a survey by Plan International UK in 2017. Some have even used socks or toilet paper because they didn’t have the money to buy anything else. And almost half of those asked had missed an entire day of school because of their period.

We learnt about why women have periods and that a lot of women and girls in the UK miss school because they can’t afford sanitary products.

With period poverty not only affecting a lot of people who identify as female, but also some transgender, intersex and non-binary people, it's a widespread concern and something everyone can benefit from learning about.

Make boys part of the conversation

Normally, Katherine teaches Maths to boys at her secondary school in London. But when she got the chance to choose a subject for her form to learn about, she chose period poverty.

She saw an opportunity to bring about change – by educating her students about the issue, and encouraging them to talk about it without embarrassment.

Through a creative writing project, Katherine was able to help the boys empathise with girls they knew – and understand that they, too, could take positive action.

The boys were starting to change the way they were seeing women in their lives… and the way that period poverty was their issue, too.

Through highlighting period poverty in her classroom, Katherine is breaking a taboo – and teaching her boys that they are also an important part of the conversation.

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