More than 137,700 girls in the UK missed school last year because they could not afford hygiene products.
This stark figure on menstrual poverty was reported in May by the charity ActionAid, which also found that 6% of parents had been so desperate to equip their daughters with menstrual products that they had resorted to stealing.
As the cost of living crisis rages on, those numbers could rise – despite the 5% VAT on vintage goods being scrapped in 2021.
Indeed, prices for some own-brand ranges rose by 57% at Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons. [Assosia 12 w/e 16 August 2022]largely influenced by production costs.
This is despite retailers’ efforts to keep prices low. For example, Sainsbury’s has pledged to invest more than £500million ‘to keep prices low on the items people buy most often’, including sanitary products.
Asda points out that its pads cost as little as 49p and tampons 69p, while Morrisons has for some time been quietly distributing free sanitary products through its Package for Sandy initiative to all store customer service desks.
Tesco – the first supermarket to offset VAT costs on all vintage goods in 2017 – appears to be following Morrisons’ lead. He launched the similar Ask for Beth program, local newspapers reported in September.
Menstrual care brands are also working to reduce period poverty.
At TOTM, that means “continuing to offer discounted promotional offers and initiatives such as the ‘Buy One, Give One’ campaign that we launched with Morrisons a few months ago,” said the president. Ruby Parmar.
For Wuka, the political campaign is on the cards. “The removal of VAT on menstrual products did not include period pants, which continue to be taxed at 20%,” says Ruby Raut, co-founder and CEO.
“The rules are not a luxury and the desire to manage them sustainably should not be penalized fiscally.” As such, Wuka started a petition to push for the abolition of sales tax on reusable period pants.
Strong political action on health care can pay off – as was proven in August. After Labor MP Monica Lennon’s campaign, Scotland introduced the Vintage Goods Act, giving all councils, schools and other education providers a legal obligation to provide free goods to anyone who needs it.