Period Products in Schools Regulations coming in to force
Having your period is natural and normal. Period products are not a luxury. That’s why the Scottish Government is campaigning to tackle the stigma around menstruation and period products, and why we are investing and taking action to make sure that everyone has access to vital products.
Today marks a significant milestone in our journey towards period dignity. School pupils across Scotland will now have access to free period products – as required by law.
This journey began back in 2017, when we funded a small project in Aberdeen providing period products to those on low incomes and to schools in the area.
Soon after that we made our ground-breaking commitment to support free period products for school pupils and students right across Scotland from August 2018, world leading action that led to acclaim from the World Health Organisation, activists and Chelsea Clinton to name but a few. Since then almost 400,000 students and pupils have had access to free period products. In a survey conducted by Young Scot, of those respondents who had taken or received free period products from their school, college or university, the majority stated that they were able to access their preferred product (81.8%), were able to access enough products to meet their needs (85.4%), and felt that the availability of free period products had a positive impact on them (83.9%).
In the past few years Scotland has further cemented its place at the forefront of driving period dignity, since January 2019 committing almost £7 million to ensure free products are available across communities. We’ve also provided dedicated support for those on low incomes through our partner FareShare, who are reaching over 80,000 people
I’m proud that in my role as Cabinet Secretary for Communities I have been able to influence not only the provision of free products, but also a real change in culture, tackling stigma and pushing for gender equality. Our ground-breaking Let’s Call Periods, Periods campaign in early 2020 helped to change people’s negative perceptions of periods and encouraged celebration of the natural, normal process of menstruation. Over half of those who saw and recognised the campaign took action afterwards, with one in five stating they had a conversation about periods, and the number of women feeling comfortable asking a colleague for a period product increased.
We have also considered the environmental impact of period products – along with Marine Scotland, we supported the award-winning Zero Waste Scotland Trial Period campaign across November and December 2019 to raise awareness of the benefits of reusable period products and to give people a chance to try out some of the available range of such products. The campaign was such a success that the Scottish Government provided extra funding for further products, and almost 3,000 free reusable products were distributed in total.
But it has become clear over the past year that we need to do more. We know that people want to see the progress that Scottish Government has driven being enshrined in law. That is why, back in February, I announced that we would not wait for the Period Products Bill to complete its parliamentary journey before it could be implemented. Instead we decided to act swiftly to protect in law now the fantastic delivery that we are already seeing in schools from Annan to Aberdeen.
The Period Products in Schools Regulations that come into force today bring that protection meaning that, by law, school pupils should be able to access period products – no more using alternatives and no more missing school because you don’t have products. This step forward in gender equality is something we should all celebrate.
Other nations have followed our lead – England is now providing access to free period products in schools and colleges, New Zealand announced in June this year that they will introduce free products in schools across the country and we have offered advice and guidance to countries as far away as South Korea. It is testament to the way we have approached this that other countries are seeking to follow where we have gone.
The final stages of consideration of the Period Products Bill in the coming months offers us a further opportunity to widen that gender equality for all those who menstruate, not just school pupils and students, not just those on low incomes, but everyone. Because whether you can afford to buy products or not, in our country in 2020 and beyond no-one should have to suffer the indignity of not being able to meet this essential, basic need.