"A PAD FOR ME, OR A NAPPY FOR MY BABY?"
In a report published 29 October 2019, Women for Refugee Women (WRW) and Bloody Good Period (BGP) show that asylum-seeking women in the UK are prevented from accessing vital period products.
The report presents the testimony of four asylum-seeking women who share their experiences of period poverty while living destitute, without accommodation or financial support. The testimonies show:
Asylum-seeking women are being forced to go without food and other basic needs in order to purchase period products.
Period poverty is negatively impacting on women’s physical and mental health, causing infections and stress. Women are resorting to using tissue and/or strips clothing or bath towels in the place of appropriate period products.
Period poverty is preventing asylum-seeking women from rebuilding their lives with dignity and is part of the ‘hostile environment’ policy against women seeking safety in the UK.
WRW spoke to 78 asylum-seeking women about access to period products, as part of their research into destitution that will be published in full in February 2020. 75 per cent struggled to obtain period products, often for extended periods of time. The minority of women who did not struggle had either finished their period or consistently relied on charities for period products.
In March 2019, Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women and Equalities, launched the Government Equalities Office’s “Period Poverty Task Force” of government, business and charities to develop new ideas to tackle period poverty in the UK. WRW and BGP believe asylum-seeking women to be one of the most marginalised groups in terms of access to period products, and thus it is vital that the Taskforce considers and acts upon their needs.
‘Marie’, an asylum-seeking woman living in Birmingham, says:
“Not having enough money to buy pads was heart breaking and stressful. I would enter into any public toilet to get tissues that I could use instead. I was too ashamed to ask a stranger for a pad because it’s so personal. I couldn’t ask other refugee women for pads because they were in the same position as me; they weren’t allowed to work and they had no money.”
‘Testimony’, an asylum-seeking woman living in London, says:
“Just before my period I knew I really had to get pads urgently and so I would have to go without things like food. I wish that pads were freely available. It is really bad that pads are so expensive because it is something that women have to go through every month. It is discrimination, everyone should have access.”
Natasha Walter, Director of Women for Refugee Women, says:
“The stories we are hearing about asylum-seeking women’s experiences of period poverty are shocking. And let’s not forget that these are part of a bigger picture, which is the hostile environment and the government’s policy of forced destitution for many of those who are seeking asylum here. These policies result in extreme distress and daily misery for women who have come to this country in order to try to find safety.”
Gabby Edlin, CEO and Founder of Bloody Good Period, says:
“No-one should be forced to choose between a period pad for themselves or a nappy for their baby, or have to forgo food in order to buy the products they need. Yet that is the reality for too many asylum-seeking women in the UK, who tell their powerful stories in this new report. Their experiences are echoed at the 40 asylum seeker drop-in centres with which we are partnered, where we are getting these vital products to people who need them. We are working hard within the Period Poverty Taskforce to ensure action is taken for these marginalised groups but urge the wider government, local authorities, the media and the general public to shine a light on the issues shared here.”