YOUNG VOICES

Leeds Girls Are Missing School Because They Can't Afford Tampons And Sanitary Towels

'I wrapped a sock around my underwear just to stop the bleeding.'

15/03/2017 15:49 GMT

Girls in the UK are missing school because they can’t afford tampons and sanitary towels, a charity has claimed. 

Freedom4Girls, which provides sanitary wear for impoverished women in Kenya, is now giving help to schoolgirls in Leeds after teachers noticed they were playing truant each month. 

The organisation’s founder Tina Leslie told The Independent that the problem is “linked to poverty”.

“I knew it was happening to homeless women and women accessing food banks, but not in schools,” she said.  

pxhidalgo via Getty Images
Girls are missing school because they cannot afford sanitary wear, according to a charity

“There were 25,000 visits to food banks in Leeds alone last year.

“So if you’re at crisis point you go to a food bank and, like in Kenya, if you can’t afford food you can’t afford sanitary protection,” Leslie added. 

Research has shown that British women spend as much as £18,450 on their periods over the course of their lifetime.

One teen girl told BBC Radio Leeds about her struggles to attend school without sanitary protection.  

“I wrapped a sock around my underwear just to stop the bleeding, because I didn’t want to get shouted at,” she said. 

“I once Sellotaped tissue to my underwear. I didn’t know what else to do.” 

Caiaimage/Chris Ryan via Getty Images
Campaigners are calling on the government to provide free sanitary towels for impoverished schoolgirls (stock image)

The anonymous pupil told presenters that after starting her period at the age of 11, she would take a few days off school every month. 

“I didn’t get any money because my mum was a single parent and she had five mouths to feed, so there wasn’t much leftover money in the pot to be giving us.” 

Campaigners have called on the government to offer sanitary pads to girls from low-income families who qualify for free school meals on prescription. 

A number of universities across the UK already offer free sanitary protection for female students.

Last week, the University of East Anglia announced it would also provide free tampons and sanitary towels at the student union.