Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council is stepping up its efforts to tackle ‘period poverty’, which affects one in ten women.
The latest partnership between Hey Girls and the council is aiming to help those affected by period poverty, through education, free access to reusable products and community outreach.
The item was proposed during a meeting of the council’s community and planning committee this month.
The committee will work alongside the climate change and sustainability officer and the waste education and awareness officer.
The council said that period poverty “is a significant issue impacting women and girls in the borough who are experiencing a lack of access to sanitary products as a result of income disadvantage”.
The six-month pilot programme will tackle period poverty outside the school term, following the passing of legislation by the Northern Ireland Assembly in March to provide free tampons and pads in schools, colleges and public buildings.
A council spokesperson said: “The initiative arose from the cost-of-living crisis and discussion with our local community organisations, who are already working hard to address multiple deprivation measures.
“We were aware that Belfast City Council has also delivered a similar scheme to provide free reusable period products within their area.
“This pilot project will help alleviate this unnecessary worry for our young people.”
Sanitary products are unaffordable to 10% of girls and women aged between 14 and 21, with 40% of the UK population unable to afford them at some point in their lives, according to Hey Girls, a social enterprise which hopes to eradicate period poverty and with which the council is partnering. Sanitary products are also the least donated item in food banks.
According to the council, the proposed £3,000 investment aims “to encourage the use of reusable and environmentally friendly sanitary products and, in doing so, address period poverty” by placing Hey Girls’ zero-waste reusable and sustainable products in community facilities such as Ballyclare Town Hall, pavilions and community centres.
Additionally, Hey Girls will deliver products and provide an educational and awareness programme on reusable products in Neighbourhood Renewal areas.
The council spokesperson highlighted that this will be part of a wider educational programme which will “incorporate an educational aspect working alongside our community organisations to provide education and awareness around reusable period products and their practical use, impact on environment and general period awareness through education cards”.
Hey Girls founder and CEO Celia Hodson was compelled to start the Scotland-based Hey Girls in 2018 after experiencing Period poverty. It has since grown to a UK-wide operation with 18 employees and has previously campaigned to set up period banks in libraries and educate fathers and help them communicate with their daughters.
“We became aware of Hey Girls through our research, links with our climate change and sustainability teams and other local council projects,” the council spokesperson said.
“We are looking forward to working with Hey Girls to deliver awareness and education on the issue of reusable products as part of this six-month pilot.”
The sanitary products are made from sustainably sourced bamboo, free from bleach toxins and designed to last between five and 10 years. As well as being more environmentally friendly, reusable sanitary products can also reduce costs by almost 80%.
“As a council, we are committed to supporting climate change,” the spokesperson added.
“This initiative has been developed in partnership with our climate change and sustainability teams alongside our waste education and awareness teams.
“A switch from single-use tampons to a reusable menstrual cup will significantly reduce the associated carbon impacts of period products.
“This pilot initiative will ensure that disposable products provided are biodegradable or recyclable, contributing to zero-waste initiatives.”
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