Period poverty: Period banks to open as some forced to use ‘socks, newspaper and old bedding’

Bethan Jenkins said some are forced to use "socks, newspaper and old bedding as period products" because they cannot afford proper products. Credit: PA Images

Period banks offering free sanitary products are set to open in Aberdare after a local campaigner became "fed up" with the extent of poverty in her area. 

The banks, which are due to open by the end of November, will offer the items to anyone who needs them.   

Bethan Jenkins, 37, from Aberdare, who is a campaigner for period dignity and the condition endometriosis, is behind 'Project Period'.

A 2022 study found that nearly one in eight people who have a period (12%) in Great Britain have struggled to buy menstrual products for themselves and/or a dependent in the past year. Of those who have struggled to afford menstrual products, 75% said they had prioritised spending money on food.

Some food banks, like the one pictured above, already stock sanitary products. Credit: PA Images

Ms Jenkins has organised hubs within the town, including at Cornerstone Church Cwmbach and Our Aberdare BID office, that will stock tampons, menstrual pads, and menstrual cups.

Charities will work in partnership with the 37-year-old activist to provide period products for the banks, as well as the support of financial donations from others. 

While some food banks already provide menstrual goods, Ms Jenkins said: "According to my research, menstrual goods are usually kept at the back of the food bank, and have to be requested.

"People shouldn't need to ask at a food bank for period products, you don't need to ask for a tin of baked beans, so why do you need to ask for a pack of tampons?

"It is heartbreaking that even people who are working now have to rely on food banks because of the cost of living crisis.

"People are using socks, newspaper and old bedding as period products, it’s shocking. Accessing free period products without any form of criticism or questioning is vital.

"The intention with this project is to have hubs where no questions will be asked, and people can get what they need."

The Welsh Government reported that 15% of 14 to 21-year-olds who have periods, have been unable to afford period products at some point. As well as this, over a quarter of people did not know what to do when they started their period.

That is why Ms Jenkins says these banks are essential. 

In October 2021 the Welsh Government published their Strategic Action Plan for Period Dignity - which aims to remove any stigma and shame about menstruation - for consultation.

The government invested £3 million towards providing period products in schools, universities and for those in need in communities. 

Scotland recently became the first country in the world to make period products free for all. Credit: PA Images

Despite this plan, over a year later some are still raising questions about the accessibility of period products in Wales.

Heledd Fychan MS, who chaired a debate in the Senedd on November 9 2022, questioned the lack of access to free period products in Wales - while discussing Scotland's free period products scheme. In August 2022 Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all, as part of the Period Products Act. 

Heledd Fychan MS said: "Unfortunately, even here in Wales in 2022, access to period products is not a right that everyone has, and we have a problem in terms of period poverty.

"Setting standards in the way we would like to live in legislation ensures a strong and far-reaching message into the future, and ensures that no one needs to miss out, or be embarrassed to have a period.

"So my plea to the minister today is to continue the great work you are already doing, but go that a step further by giving the right to free period products wherever you are in Wales by law."