But the cost of female hygiene products isn’t the only reason that women are still dealing with period poverty. The stifling stigma that persists around menstruation exacerbates the myriad social and cultural reasons that make it hard for girls to talk about it.
Since LS:N Global presented its micro trend The Vagina Reconsidered, more initiatives have emerged to challenge the taboo around periods. Brands such as Blume are educating young women about periods, while THINX has created reusable, period-proof underwear. The #FreePeriods campaign by 18-year-old Amika George inspired more than 2,000 people to protest outside Downing Street in London, while sanitary brand Always has partnered with the Red Box Project to provide free sanitary products to school-age girls, to ensure they don’t miss school because of their period.
It’s also been encouraging to see the Scottish government recently announce a £5.2m scheme to provide free sanitary products for students at schools, colleges and universities in a bid to counteract period poverty. By providing free sanitary items in bathrooms, these products are brought to the same level as other essentials like toilet paper, hand soap and paper towels that are available for free, and for all to use.
Taking this further, three Scottish students this year launched the On the Ball campaign to increase the access and visibility of sanitary products at football grounds. Their initiative led to Brighton & Hove Albion becoming the first Premier League football club to provide female fans with free sanitary goods, driving a more inclusive attitude around the sport. Major clubs such as Liverpool and Everton are now considering similar steps.
UK institutions offering free feminine hygiene essentials is a major step forward. However, it drives the question beyond whether tampons and pads should be free from the pink tax, but free entirely? With the UK government outlining plans to allocate £1.5 million to address period poverty in the UK, I wonder just how hard mainstream personal care brands will lobby to secure brand-led partnerships with these institutions?
One thing is clear, however. Those raising their voice about period poverty are driving a major shake-up in the female hygiene market. Not only are they breaking taboos around menstruation but heralding a future in which periods are not only sustainable, accessible and inoffensive – but quite possibly free.
Discover the influential consumer and technology trends that are rewriting the narratives around gender, career and family in our Female Futures Sector on LS:N Global.