Woman spends student loan on sanitary products to help people facing period poverty

'As a society we have been told to be quiet about our periods'

Sarah Young
Saturday 13 April 2019 08:26 BST
Michael Sheen encourages fathers to talk to their daughters about periods in new #Pads4Dads campaign

A university student has used a portion of her student loan to pay for dozens of boxes of sanitary products to help those on campus facing period poverty.

Daisy Wakefield, a third year Drawing and Print student at the University of the West of England (UWE) has been creating art surrounding the issue of period poverty throughout her degree.

As the president of the UWE feminist society, the student has also undergone extensive training surrounding the topic and has campaigned consistently for free access to sanitary products for students.

However, after the university allegedly failed to provide free sanitary products or respond to Wakefield’s emails regarding the issue, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

This week, the 22-year-old spent more than £100 purchasing enough sanitary towels and tampons to fill 40 boxes that she designed and handmade herself.

Wakefield has since distributed the boxes across all UWE campuses with the hopes that the university will recognise the need to provide free sanitary products to its students.

Sharing a photo of the boxes of sanitary products on Instagram, Wakefield wrote: “FREE SANITARY PRODUCTS FOR ALL!!!

“After many emails saying ‘I’ll get back to you’ or ‘I’m not sure’ I’m tired of @uwebristol not addressing the crisis that is period poverty in the UK.

“Therefore, I, Daisy Wakefield have been forced to take matters into my own hands by supplying FREE sanitary products on all @uwebristol campuses.

"(Due to funding this with my student loan there is limited supply, so head to your nearest UWE bathroom soon if you are in need).”

Wakefield’s post has since received hundreds of likes and comments from people praising her generous act.

“Isn't it pathetic that you have to do this with YOUR STUDENT LOAN!!!!,” one person commented.

“Honestly it's mental! Well done though for being so selfless. Hopefully this kicks them into some kind of action!”

Another added: “Saw this in toilet today, this is amazing and hopefully UWE will address this immediately.”

A third person wrote: “Fantastic work Daisy !!! Well done, so proud of you.”

Wakefield has since followed the post with a video showing her constructing and filling the handmade boxes for nearly six hours, before once again calling on the university to do more.

“If one student using their student loan can provide, hand make and assemble 40 sanitary boxes, @uwebristol most definitely can,” she wrote.

“I believe in you @uwebristol PLEASE make positive change and supply FREE sanitary products for all students.”

Speaking to The Independent, Wakefield explains she became passionate about ending period poverty roughly four years ago.

"You most likely know someone who is suffering from period poverty, which is why I felt I needed to do something.

"UWE and all Universities need to stop turning to charities and volunteers such as the Women’s Forum to provide support and actually invest money to finally put an end to period poverty."

Wakefield explains that her underlying motivation is to destigmatize period poverty and menstruation as a whole.

"As a society we have been told to be quiet about our periods. So it’s no wonder people feel they can’t speak up about suffering with period poverty when so many can’t even talk about their period."

In response to Wakefield's campaign, a spokesperson for UWE tells The Independent: "Period poverty is a global issue and we’re pleased that UWE Bristol students are passionately advocating for change. The University does not currently supply free sanitary products on campus, though we would be pleased to meet with students to understand if there is an emerging need for this.

"All students can access the Blackbullion app to help their budgeting and our money advice service can provide vouchers in emergencies. Students paying home fees can access a student support fund and summer fund to cover composite living costs, and there is an emergency fund accessible to international students.

"Short term loans can also be arranged for any student with less than £100 in their back account."

Wakefield’s campaign comes just weeks after a new poll revealed that more than a quarter of women have been forced to miss work or school because they cannot afford period products.

The survey found 51 per cent of respondents had suffered from the problem, or knew someone who had, while more than two-thirds had been forced to use makeshift menstrual protection at some point.

It is estimated that the average women spends £4,800 on sanitary products during her lifetime.

In March 2019, the government announced a free sanitary product scheme across secondary schools and colleges in England in a bid to combat period poverty.

The scheme, which is due to start from September, was announced by chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond during today’s Spring Statement.

“In response to rising concern by headteachers that some girls are missing school attendance due to inability to afford sanitary products, I have decided to fund the provision of free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges in England from the next school year,” Mr Hammond said.

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The change follows a two-year campaign led by teenage activist Amika George who creating a petition called #FreePeriods.

The government also recently announced that all NHS hospitals in England will be required to offer free tampons or sanitary products to any patient who needs them from this summer.

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