Period poverty plea to Oldham schools and colleges on International Women’s Day

Liberal Democrat Councillors Diane Williamson and Hazel Gloster have sent a joint letter to all of Oldham’s state-funded schools and colleges on International Women’s Day (8 March) calling on them to sign up to a government scheme which provides free sanitary products for low-income students. An inability to access or afford sanitary products prevents some students from attending classes. With the post-Lockdown return to education planned from today, this issue is even more important.

Councillor Williamson explained: “The 8 March is celebrated every year as International Women’s Day. The advancement of girls and women in our society has been greatly enhanced by their ability to participate in, and benefit, from education at all levels, yet the attendance of girls and young women from lower-income households at their school or college has sometimes been impeded by their inability to access sanitary products every month. This isn’t right – a bodily function should not prevent any student being able to access education as this can lead to an inability to access university or employment opportunities in adulthood.”

Both councillors proposed a motion to the September 2018 meeting of Oldham College calling for free sanitary products to be made available to school and college students and for an end to VAT being charged on sanitary products.

Councillor Hazel Gloster added: “In January this year we celebrated when the government scrapped the ‘tampon tax’ lowering the price on sanitary products, but were disappointed to hear that one year after the Department of Education introduced, as we suggested, a scheme to make free sanitary products available to schools and colleges that only 40% of those eligible have signed up to the scheme.”

Councillor Williamson and Councillor Gloster are hoping that their appeal will encourage more Oldham schools and colleges to take up the offer.

“COVID-19 has placed increased financial pressure on families, with 30% of girls reported to have been struggling to access the period products they need during lockdown”, Councillor Williamson concluded. “Ideally we would like to see every eligible school and college in Oldham sign up as the situation in a poor borough like ours is likely to be much worse.”

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