BAME in Property and LandAid, have come together to talk about the impact of periods on women facing homelessness to raise awareness for World Menstrual Hygiene Day (28 May).
From talking about the reality facing millions of women every day to providing tangible actions, we hope to encourage the built environment industry to do more to support not just homeless individuals on their period, but any individual who may be caught out when out and about.
Before we start, a short disclaimer. The official day is called World Menstrual Hygiene Day, however we have chosen to call it World Menstrual Health Day, to remove the stigma often attached with periods, and change the narrative and conversation to access, education and ultimately, better period health.
Let’s be honest, most women have been there. You’re out and about, enjoying your usual activities, and then you get caught short. Often, there is a pharmacy or a supermarket close by to quickly purchase a few period products and the moment of panic is over.
However, for young women experiencing homelessness the solution is not always so simple. Life is often unstable. From not having a bed from one day to the next, to managing financially, the struggle is real, and the reality is uncertain.
Yet, despite this challenge, in the context of periods, there is little research available about how women experiencing homelessness are really affected by their menstrual cycle and how they cope with access to products and toilets.
Charities changing the narrative
In line with World Menstrual Health Day, we spoke to two charities who work with both LandAid and BAME in Property to understand a little more about how they support women in educating them around their periods, how they should be perceived and how to cope best in line with their own needs. These are Binti Period, another charity partner of BAME in Property and the Anah Project, one of the charities supported through LandAid funding.
Binti Period believe that every girl deserves menstrual dignity. They provide access to education about periods, access to pads, and advocate for freedom from stigmas and taboos surrounding periods.
The Anah Project provides multilingual support for women who have fled abusive environments. They aim to educate women on their human rights, increase their confidence and self-esteem and regain their independence. They do this by delivering support that focuses on a woman’s individual needs. This includes education on period health.
Both charities support women from many different cultures and backgrounds. The commonality they experience is how often the women that they work with feel ashamed of what they are experiencing every month. They feel that it’s both unsanitary and dirty.
Collectively we want to change this conversation. From hygiene and sanitation to dignity and provision.
Periods should be perceived as a healthy part of life as opposed to something that should be hidden.
Intertwined with often untrue myths about how women should act when on their period or why they are experiencing the symptoms, they find it difficult to talk about.
The Anah Project is experienced in dealing with conversations around period health and provides regular training sessions to act as a factual sounding board for the women at their centre. They also share information packs which have been translated into multiple languages, including Urdu and Punjabi.
This conversation is very powerful but does have its limits.
The harsh reality
The financial instability that comes with homelessness means that many women can find it difficult to acquire the basic necessities needed to manage a healthy period. The women at the Anah Project are provided with period products as part of the regular routine when they arrive at the centre.
However, for those more unsupported, Binti Period find that these women often resort to using toilet paper in between periods because this is readily available in public buildings. This is only exasperated in young people who can feel even more embarrassed to ask for help.
Despite the vending machines present in many toilets across the UK, women do not always have the means to pay for these, or even have the correct change needed. We all understand that feeling of being caught short!
Support can create impactful change
The built environment industry and individuals can all play a part in changing the narrative of period health and providing the right resources and support to all women from all backgrounds. Here’s how.
1. Free period products in all public buildings.
Real estate companies can encourage the implementation of free period products in public spaces across the UK. This would have considerable impact on the social infrastructure of the country for women. For young women experiencing homelessness in particular, this small change would create feelings of security. From shopping centres to supermarkets and libraries, real estate companies have key leverage in ensuring the facilities they own are providing everything they can.
Surrey County Council became the first council to provide free products across the borough. This means that anyone can pick up period products, feeling confident that there will be no judgement. To make it known that these products are available there are stickers in the locations where they are provided, like Visa or Mastercard stickers. They are striving to eradicate the stigma.
Binti Period are particularly advocating for this to be rolled out across the UK. There should be no discrepancy between those experiencing homelessness to those who may have forgotten their pad or tampon; it doesn’t matter.
2. Educating and raising awareness.
Collectively we can all talk about period health in a new light. Own the conversation and encourage dignity and provision.
3. Donating to relevant charities.
And we can all, as individuals and companies keep providing support through donations, both monetary and physical health products, to those charities who are creating a safe space and helping those who need it most.
We hope we have given some food for thought and inspired you to start the conversation about periods. Let’s end period stigma.
Please do get in touch with either of us for any support.
BAME in Property and LandAid
BAME in Property bring together BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities) and non-BAME professionals who are passionate about increasing ethnic diversity in the property and planning sectors. They are part of LandAid’s Networks Against Homelessness. LandAid bring the property industry together to support charities across the UK, delivering life changing services for young people who are experiencing homelessness.
Find out more here