CAMPAIGNERS in Ellesmere Port have been working over the last 12 months with the hope of putting an end to 'period poverty' affecting the lives of women and girls across the town.

According to Plan International UK, one in 10 girls in the UK are unable to afford menstrual hygiene products and missing school as a result. A recent survey reported by the Independent said that over a quarter of women and girls revealed they were forced to miss work and school due to period poverty.

There are many women who are in low-income employment or who are unable to work who often have to choose between household bills, food and hygiene products. Some women and girls are using inappropriate and unsafe substitutes such as socks or newspapers.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced earlier this year that free sanitary products would be available to all secondary schools and colleges in his Spring Statement this year, on April 16, he further announced that this will further be rolled out to include primary schools too.

Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi also confirmed the full scheme will be rolled out nationally from early 2020 and period products in all schools will be fully funded by the Department for Education.

Yet it would seem further details have not been made clear, so many girls are continuing to miss school are making do with unsafe and unhygienic alternatives.

There are concerns about the sustainability of the Department for Education funding such a project especially when so many schools are struggling with day-to-day running due to lack of funding and diminishing resources

The Giving Against Period Poverty, The (GAPP) Initiative in Ellesmere Port, has been working to serve the local community, particularly for young mums and school girls who may benefit from the kind of support the GAPP Initiative offers.

Project co-ordinator Carole Nall-Evans said: “It started as very much a home-grown, grassroots project. A God-inspired project which started at St Thomas and St Lawrence Churches in Ellesmere Port, in early 2018.

"We have been very blessed and have only been able to respond to these issues through the grace of God and the kind generosity of people in Ellesmere Port.”

Regular donation points have been set up across the town and the generosity of many people, including local businesses and stores, local churches and a variety of other groups, has meant that products can now be distributed through local high schools, Cheshire College, children’s centres, doctors' surgeries and many more places.

Carole added: “It is a sad indictment of our times that despite periods being a natural process and part of nearly every girl and woman’s life, poverty and stigma means that many girls are missing their education and women are struggling with day-to-day life because of them.

"Our hope is that through the GAPP Initiative, we will help ease the stress that many women and girls face and ensure nobody has to miss out on school, work or living a normal life because of period poverty”

The GAPP Initiative has also been supported by local councillor Nicole Meardon, who was able to get the council’s Starting Well Service involved to ensure that children’s centres, health visitors and school nurses as well as family support teams are able to provide products to any families who may need them.

Cllr Nicole said: “Carole and the team are doing an amazing job (through the GAPP Initiative at St Thomas Church and St Lawrence Church), raising the issue of period poverty in Ellesmere Port and helping supply products to women and girls who need them.

"The council is committed to supporting projects such as the GAPP initiative and will do all we can to eliminate period poverty across Cheshire West. No woman or girl should go without the basic right to menstrual products and it is essential we do all we can to make sure every woman and girl has access to these supplies.”

Carole added: “As part of our aim to help build awareness and to help tackle period poverty, particularly for school girl, we have also started making a provision of ‘Starter Packs’ available for all Year 7 high school girls.

"The packs include sanitary products, a selection of toiletries and a few other items. We made our first delivery of Starter Packs recently to The Ellesmere Port Church of England College (AKA the Academy) in April.”

Donations of products to GAPP initiative are more than welcome, especially in the interim between now and when the Government roll out their proposals in 2020.

For more information, visit: