Teenager launches legal campaign to get British government to provide free menstrual products in schools

Catrina Stewart, in Nairobi

A teenager who is leading the fight against period poverty is raising money for a legal campaign in her fight to get the government to provide free menstrual products in schools.

Amika George, the 19-year-old founder of the #FreePeriods campaign, has been raising awareness of period poverty and the effects of not being able to afford sanitary products.

In December 2017, the teenager stood outside Downing Street with 2,000 others to call on the government to tackle period poverty by providing free tampons or pads in schools across the country.

One year later, Ms George says “we are yet to see any meaningful policy change” and is now raising funds to “bring a robust legal cause which will lead to the government complying with its legal obligations”.

Free Periods, led by Amika George, has embarked on a legal campaign (Amika George/Free Periods)

Launching the campaign with the Red Box Project and with support from The Pink Protest, Ms George wrote: “The Scottish government has made history by ensuring free access to menstrual products in all schools, colleges and universities.

"The Welsh government has also pledged £1 million to address period poverty. In England, we are being left behind.

“Equal access to education is a fundamental human right and no one should miss school because they cannot afford pads and tampons. These products must be provided for free in every school and college.

“We want to see an end to period poverty. We believe that menstrual products should be freely available in all schools to all children who need them.”

Ms George received global recognition last year after receiving a Goalkeepers award by Bill and Melinda Gates in September and being listed by TIME magazine as one of the 25 most influential teenagers in the world.

The #FreePeriods campaign is now being advised by the human rights team at Hausfeld & Co, with the money raised being used for “exploratory legal work and in support of the broader legal campaign”.

Writing about her campaign against period poverty, the 19-year-old said: “Period poverty is damaging. It’s undignified. It’s unacceptable, and it must stop.

“Free Periods was started after the BBC published a report that revealed that children in the UK were routinely missing school because they couldn’t afford to buy menstrual products.

“Shockingly, some were using socks stuffed with toilet tissue or newspaper. There was widespread disbelief that this was happening right under our noses. Yet, the government has yet to act.”

Amika George with Bill and Melinda Gates and Ed Sheeran after receiving a Goalkeepers award (Getty Images)

The fundraising page, which has a target of £10,000 by February 7, has had more than £6,500 donated by hundreds of people since the campaign launched on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Standard, a spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Through the Tampon Tax Fund £1.68 million has been made available to help distribute sanitary products to young women and girls in need across England.

“Our guidance encourages schools to help girls cope with menstruation and we are providing more than £2.4bn Pupil Premium this year to support schools in meeting the needs of disadvantaged pupils.

"Current analysis does show there is no evidence that period poverty has a significant nation-wide impact on school attendance.

"We are continuing to look into this sensitive issue and schools can make sanitary products available if they identify access to products as a barrier to girls attending school."