words by Kirsten Blackburn, Brand Development Lead, Hey Girls
One in ten girls in the UK have struggled to afford period products. 49% of them have missed an entire day of school because of their period. 1 in 4 women don’t understand their menstrual cycle. These are pretty shocking statistics. Here at Hey Girls, we don’t believe anyone should be held back by their period in 2019.
Since launching in January 2018, we have donated over 5.2 million period products to community groups, homeless shelters, food banks, schools and youth clubs. Our Buy One Give One business model means that every product we sell in store or online is matched with a donation to someone in need. Better yet, all Hey Girls products are plastic free.
We’re on a mission to eradicate Period Poverty in the UK, and our work to increase access to products is making waves. But there is a wider problem – making sure that everyone can bleed with dignity.
Hey Girls HQ is somewhat unconventional compared to your usual office. We’re a small team of women working hard to destigmatize periods, so it’s unsurprising that period chat has become the norm.
Since joining the Hey Girls team at the beginning of this year, I have often had to remind myself when re-entering the real world that not everyone is on the same page when it comes to menstruation. “So, you don’t discuss the height of your cervix with colleagues over a cup of Earl Grey? How odd.” Yes, Hey Girls live in a bubble of female liberation, celebration, and straight up honesty.
But that bubble is repeatedly popped when we’re faced with the daily reminder that this type of conversation in the workplace is far from normal. A survey we ran last year found that 68% of UK women left work immediately if they didn’t have the right period products to hand. Women across the country are still stuffing tampons up their sleeves, spending their lunch hour frantically looking for the nearest corner shop, or keeping their legs achingly crossed to save the office furniture from a mother-nature-makeover.
Most women at some point in their working lives have found themselves caught short, resulting in a telepathic request for an emergency tampon to female colleagues. And once your periods are over and out, we find ourselves fleeing to the bathroom to hide another hot flush. Periods will affect roughly half the population at for a significant portion of their working lives. And yet, they’re almost never talked about.
An office wouldn’t allow staff to go without pens, paper, or loo roll… So why don’t we provide period products?
Allow us to introduce you to, The Period Dignity Movement.
Professional women are not necessarily living in poverty – for many, the high price of period products is annoying, but not prohibitive. But that’s not what our Period Dignity campaign is about. We’re asking employers to provide pads and tampons in their toilets – a very simple (and pretty cheap) policy to support their staff.
The Hey Girls Period Dignity campaign is part of a wider mission to tackle inequality in the workplace, whilst shifting taboos within the corporate world. Since getting the ball rolling earlier this year, we have teamed up with some pretty fantastic brands who now all stock products in their staff bathrooms – H&M, Aesop Skincare, Revolution Bars, Morton Fraser LLP, and most recently VisitScotland – but to name a few. And because Hey Girls has a Buy One Give One model, every product sold to a business is matched with a donation to a local charity.
We don’t expect companies to suddenly start hanging tampons on the Christmas tree, or chat menstruation before every board meeting. After all, periods are private – but they shouldn’t be secret. Acknowledging that a large portion of your workforce is affected by a natural biological process is a good start to ensuring gender equality. Good employers give their staff room to flourish. Why not start by reducing the fear and embarrassment surrounding periods? Period Dignity is about offering a subtle nod of encouragement to staff, letting them know that support is there when it’s needed most.
How can you help?
What we’re discovering with this campaign is that often all it takes is the courage and passion of one individual to make this happen. Speak to your colleagues, manager, and bring Period Dignity to your office.