New campaign to end period poverty for Hackney schoolgirls

Gemma Abbott from The Red Box Project Hackney North and Stoke Newington. Pic: Andrea Stromskag

A Stoke Newington woman has started an initiative to end ‘period poverty’ for schoolgirls, as 48 per cent of UK girls struggle to pay for their sanitary products.

The Red Box Project Hackney North and Stoke Newington is a volunteer initiative providing boxes with sanitary products. The project has boxes in 13 schools in the area, seven of which are primary schools.

Gemma Abbott, a former lawyer, started the local branch of  the Red Box Project, a nationwide charity initiative, after learning that girls in the UK were missing out on school because they could not afford the necessary products:

“It is not very hard to imagine the ‘bloody’ reality of it. How can girls be expected to fully engage in education, social activities or sports without basic sanitary products? It is just horrific and while I believe in structural change, it takes time. Young people experience this today, so the Red Box Project is a good way of raising awareness of this important issue.”

Pic: The Red Box Project Hackney North; artwork by Hazel Mead

Although not every school has a pressing need for sanitary products, Abbott explained that there is a big demand in Hackney.

“We have had positive responses from several schools there. It is extremely important that girls feel they can rely on us, so we will top up the boxes with sanitary products consistently until this is no longer needed.”

The project is completely dependent on donations and volunteers. They have set out donation boxes in local businesses, like Morrison’s on Stamford Hill and Beaucatcher hairdresser on Stoke Newington Church Street.

“We receive a lot of support from Hackney Foodbank that donates any surplus of menstrual products. This has allowed the project to grow quicker than otherwise.”

A typical red box that will be placed in a school. Pic Andrea Stromskag

Abbott said the community response has been ”incredible” but they are struggling with logistics, as they do not have enough storage.

“We want to expand but we need support. At the heart of the project is a desire to prevent the disadvantage for young people not to fully access their education. We will provide the boxes anywhere we can help.”

On May 28, the World Menstrual Hygiene Day, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced he was partnering up with the Red Box Project to end period poverty in London.

The Red Box Projects started in Portsmouth in March 2017. The project quickly spread across the UK and there are now over 70 local projects providing local schools with red boxes. According to Plan International UK, 48% of girls in the UK struggle to afford sanitary products.

Picture: Plan International UK

Donate to The Red Box project here or contact The Red Box Project North Hackney and Stoke Newington to contribute as a volunteer.

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