Queen's Birthday Honours: Period poverty campaigner Amika George receives MBE

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image source, PA Media
image captionAmika George started her period poverty campaign when she was 17

The youngest recipient of this year's Queen's Birthday Honours has said she initially felt "quite uncomfortable" about accepting her MBE.

Amika George, 21, from Edgware in north-west London, campaigned for free period products at schools so girls did not miss out on education.

Her not-for-profit organisation persuaded the UK government to pay for the items at every state school and college in England.

Her MBE is for services to education.

When considering the implications of the honour, she described the British Empire as "an horrific and exploitative endeavour". She decided to accept the award because young people of colour are underrepresented in politics and activism.

Ms George, who has Indian heritage, started her crusade four years ago after reading about the issue of period poverty and the pupils in the UK who were missing up to a week of school every month because they had no access to period products.

She said it shocked and then angered her, which spurred her to take action. By the end of 2017 a protest outside Downing Street was attended by more than 2,000 people and a petition had attracted 180,000 signatures.

The scheme began in 2020 with schools and colleges being able to order in as many products they need but Covid-19 has meant period poverty had increased during the pandemic, she claims.

Ms George said pupils were able to pick the products up at their local school during lockdown but the scheme suffered from a lack of awareness, and "I think that period poverty became worse. Hopefully, it is getting better now".

image source, Getty Images
image captionThe scheme began in 2020 with schools and colleges being able to order in as many period products as they needed

Ms George, who studied Indian colonial history and Britain's ties to the slave trade as part of her degree from Cambridge University, said an email offering her the MBE left her "surprised and stunned".

"I was thrown into a bit of self-reflection where I asked myself, 'do I want this tied to my name?'

"I have a huge opportunity in accepting the award to draw attention to our lack of education around empire and Britain's history, but also to show other young people, particularly from the Asian community, who maybe don't feel very empowered politically, or don't feel seen.

"I want to show them that your opinions and political actions are just as valid and needed as an older white man who seems to be in Parliament and seems to have a lot more power than you do."

She plans a break as she feels "exhausted" after spending most of the past five years trying to balance activism and study.

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