Periods are bloody expensive and it’s for this reason the #FreePeriods movement exists.
Last year at the National Women’s Conference we passed a motion to support the #FreePeriods movement which mandated the campaign to:
Push for the abolishment of the 5% VAT tax on “Women’s Sanitary Products” by changing the categorisation of the commodity from “luxury” to “necessary”.
To support the campaign for #FreePeriods: calling on the Government to eradicate the cost of sanitary products.
Encourage SU’s to work for the absorption of the tax on sold products in their University’s municipality or businesses and, if possible, the provision of free sanitary products to all students who need them.
Provide resources in the form of toolkits and workshops, on skills such as lobbying, motion writing and campaigning to unions who take up the campaign.
Encourage students’ unions to look at using sustainable and organic alternatives to sanitary products in their Union shopping outlets.
Since then a lot has happened, the government may have not budged on the VAT yet, but we have been supporting students’ unions to lead the way in cutting the costs of periods.
We teamed up with Newcastle University feminist society and promoted #PeriodPrideDay which resulted in many student groups across the country running events to talk about the cost of periods and the stigma attached to them. Many SUs also used this to show their support for the #FreePeriods campaign
This day was also used to highlight that one group of people who are heavily affected by the cost of sanitary products are homeless people. Shelters get an allowance every year to buy items like condoms, but nothing for sanitary products. It was great to see students’ unions organising donation drives for sanitary items to send to local homeless shelters on #PeriodPrideDay. At NUS, we had a collection box in our London office for sanitary products and made menstrual care packages for our local homeless shelter.
On #PeriodPrideDay we also launched the #FreePeriods Toolkit to help students’ unions to cut the cost of menstruation by providing cheaper or where possible, free sanitary products to all students who need them. This toolkit is also packed with case studies on how to lobby on your campus locally and nationally for #FreePeriods.
Last autumn I met up with NUS Services to talk about the #freeperiods campaign and what we could do to help students’ unions to cut the costs for their students. It was made clear it wasn’t possible for us to absorb the tax as a purchasing consortium, but we should be doing what we can to show how SU’s can do so. I also explained that although we provided a large range of items we should be doing more to highlight the health risks and negative ecological effects of using certain brands and the benefits of endorsing organic and ethical brands. We also discussed how we could make it easier for students’ unions to order sanitary products through NUS Connect. I’m pleased to say that you can now order organic tampons and towels as well as download campaigning resources right here.
While we still have some way to go, together we can fight for a future of #FreePeriods for everyone.