Northern Ireland Council partners with Hey Girls to tackle menstrual poverty

Antrim & Newtownabbey County is stepping up its efforts to tackle ‘period poverty’, which affects one in ten women.

t aims to help affected people through education, free access to reusable products and community outreach.

The item was proposed during a community council and planning committee meeting this month.

The committee will work alongside the climate change and sustainability officer and the waste education and awareness officer.

The council said menstrual poverty “is a significant problem affecting women and girls in the neighborhood who are experiencing lack of access to sanitary products as a result of income disadvantage.”

The six-month pilot program will address menstrual poverty outside of school hours, following legislation passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly in March to provide free tampons and pads in schools, colleges and public buildings.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The initiative grew out of the cost-of-living crisis and discussion with our local community organizations, who are already hard at work dealing with various measures of deprivation.

“We knew that Belfast City Council also provided a similar scheme to provide free reusable period products in their area.

“This pilot project will help alleviate this unnecessary worry for our youth.”

Sanitary products are unaffordable for 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 that hopes eradicate menstrual poverty and with which the council is partnered. 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”, placing the reusable and sustainable products ​Hey Girls zero waste facilities at community facilities such as Ballyclare City Hall, pavilions and community centers.

In addition, Hey Girls will deliver products and provide an educational and awareness program about reusable products in neighborhood renovation areas.

The council spokesperson highlighted that this will be part of a broader educational program that “will incorporate an educational aspect by working alongside our community organizations to provide education and awareness about reusable menstrual products and their practical use, impact on the environment.” and general awareness of the period through educational cards”.

Hey Girls founder and CEO Celia Hodson was forced to start Scotland-based Hey Girls in 2018 after experiencing period poverty. It has since grown to a UK-wide operation with 18 employees and has campaigned to set up menstruation banks in libraries and educate parents 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 look forward to working with Hey Girls to raise awareness and educate on the issue of reusable products as part of this six-month pilot.”

Sanitary products are made from sustainably sourced bamboo, free of bleach toxins and designed to last between five and 10 years.

In addition to being more environmentally friendly, reusable sanitary products can also reduce costs by nearly 80%.

“As a council, we are committed to supporting climate change,” the spokesperson added.

“This initiative was developed in partnership with our climate change and sustainability teams, along with our waste education and awareness teams.

“Switching from single-use tampons to a reusable menstrual cup will significantly reduce the carbon impacts associated with menstrual products.

“This pilot initiative will ensure that the disposable products provided are either biodegradable or recyclable, contributing to zero waste initiatives.”

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