New briefing by women's charities finds period poverty is part of 'hostile environment' policy against asylum seekers
Women for Refugee Women looks at effects of "period poverty" among refugee and asylum-seeking women
07 November 2019
Women for Refugee Women (WRW) last week released a briefing looking at the effects of "period poverty" among refugee and asylum-seeking women. It was authored and published together with the charity Bloody Good Period (BGP), which provides menstrual products and toiletries to asylum seekers, refugees and those who can't afford them.
You can download the 10-page briefing here.
The briefing says that asylum support of £37.75 a week is not enough to live on, let alone enough to purchase adequate period products each month.
In addition, many of the women WRW works with, especially failed asylum seekers, are not even able to access asylum support, leaving them destitute and dependent on charities for their basic needs.
WRW says destitution has a devastating impact on women, including difficulties in accessing period products.
The briefing states: "Among 78 women WRW interviewed, 75% struggled to obtain period pads or tampons while destitute, forcing them to overuse a period product, improvise period wear or beg for money to buy a pad. Those women who never struggled were either consistently given period products by charities or no longer had periods due to their age or health issues."
The briefing features four testimonies from destitute refugee women, which shed light on the practical challenges the women faced in obtaining pads, as well as the menstrual shame and stigma they grappled with.
One of the women says:" Not having enough money to buy pads was heartbreaking and stressful. I would enter into any public toilet to get tissues that I could use instead. I was too ashamed to ask a stranger for a pad. I've worked before, I've been independent in my country. It felt shameful to ask someone to take care of my period; it's so personal. I couldn't ask other refugee women for pads because they were in the same position as me; they weren't allowed to work and they had no money."
According to WRW and BGP, period poverty is part of the Government's 'hostile environment' policy against asylum seekers.
Natasha Walter, Director of WRW, said: "The stories we are hearing about asylum-seeking women's experiences of period poverty are shocking. And let's not forget that these are part of a bigger picture, which is the hostile environment and the government's policy of forced destitution for many of those who are seeking asylum here. These policies result in extreme distress and daily misery for women who have come to this country in order to try to find safety."
Gabby Edlin, the CEO of BGP, said: "No-one should be forced to choose between a period pad for themselves or a nappy for their baby, or have to forgo food in order to buy the products they need. Yet that is the reality for too many asylum-seeking women in the UK, who tell their powerful stories in this new report. Their experiences are echoed at the 40 asylum seeker drop-in centres with which we are partnered, where we are getting these vital products to people who need them. We are working hard within the Period Poverty Taskforce to ensure action is taken for these marginalised groups but urge the wider government, local authorities, the media and the general public to shine a light on the issues shared here."
WRW will be releasing a full report examining the effects of destitution on refugee and asylum-seeking women in February 2020.
For more details of BGP's work, see their website here.