period poverty

The Impact of Period Poverty on Refugee Women

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Period poverty has been thrust into the cultural spotlight due to heroic campaigners like Amika George calling for a change in the UK.

The British government’s new Period Poverty Taskforce aims to end menstrual poverty by 2030 through various mediums such as education and social media. They hope to directly reach out and engage with women.

Period poverty campaign group, Bloody Big Brunch, published data this year revealing over a quarter of women had no option but to miss work or studies due to inability to afford period products.

Publishing further findings in October 2019, Bloody Big Brunch has partnered with Women for Refugee Women (WRW) to examine how period poverty affects refugee and asylum-seeking women. Asylum seekers are forced to survive on merely £37.75 per week and, as the briefing states, this already pitiful amount does not take into account the need for menstrual products. WRW have raised concerns about women who are counted as ‘failed’ asylum seekers and therefore not entitled to financial support whatsoever.

End period poverty protest, March 2019 (Alamy Stock Photo)

The briefing explains:

“Among 78 women WRW interviewed, 75% struggled to obtain period pads of tampons whilst destitute, forcing them to overuse a period product, improve period wear or beg for money to buy a pad. Those women who never struggled were either consistently given period products by charities or no longer had periods due to their age or health issues.”

“To have to cope with your period on top of all this is too much.”

Asylum-seeking woman shares her ordeal with WRW.

Detailed experiences of four women, all refugees or asylum seekers, shared their experiences of fleeing persecution and attempting to rebuild their lives in Britain. One woman’s account within the findings stated: “The government should help us asylum-seekers. We are sleeping outside; in the bus, in the park. We are not allowed to work. We don’t have food. It is no good; it gives us too much stress. People don’t see what we are going through. To have to cope with your period on top of all this is too much.”

Prior to the formation of the Period Poverty Taskforce this year, information about menstrual poverty had been scarce. There was even less research regarding how refugee and asylum-seeking women are forced to go through this harrowing experience. Both WRW and BGP are critical of the UK’s culture of silence and shame around periods, expressing that it has led to dangerous invisibility surrounding this issue.

Director of WRW, Natasha Walter, said:

“The stories we are hearing about asylum-seeking women’s experiences of period poverty are shocking. And let’s not forget that these are part of a bigger picture, which is the hostile environment and the government’s policy of forced destitution for many of those who are seeking asylum here. These policies result in extreme distress and daily misery for women who have to come to this country in order to try and find safety.”

WRW and BGP, as conveners of Period Poverty Taskforce, are committed to challenging the marginalisation and dehumanisation of refugee and asylum-seeking women.

[Image credit here]

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