England Women's football team captain Steph Houghton has opened up about the importance of combatting period poverty in the UK, stating that access to period products helps girls feel “comfortable” to take part in daily activities.
According a 2017 survey by children’s charity Plan International UK, almost half of girls in the UK missed an entire day of school because of their period and one in 10 women aged between 14 and 21 were unable to afford sanitary products.
“I think when you take part in sporting activities you build up your confidence every day because you’re doing something that you like to do, and you feel good about yourself whether you’re on your period or not,” Houghton tells British Vogue.
“For me, it’s a real shame that girls are missing out on these activities because they can’t afford period products... I think that can really impact your life in terms of going forward.”
It’s for this reason that the footballer has teamed up with feminine care product brand Always to raise awareness of period poverty.
By the end of September 2019, Always and Tampax will donate one product for every pack of Always Ultra, Always Platinum, Tampax Compak, and Tampax Compak Pearl purchased in retailers including Superdrug, Tesco, Boots, Morrison’s and Wilko, to young girls in need.
The news comes months after the the UK government announced a free sanitary product scheme across secondary schools and colleges in England. The scheme, which is due to start from September was announced by Philip Hammond, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, during the Spring Statement in March.
“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.
During her interview with Vogue, Houghton – who reached the semi-finals of this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup with her teammates – said that she knows all too well the value taking part in sport can have for young girls who struggle with self-confidence.
“For me, growing up and taking part in sport really helped to build my confidence. I was quite shy and reserved at school,” she told the magazine.
Speaking about the gender stereotypes of women in football, Houghton said: “Growing up it was always football that I wanted to play. I think it was obviously mixed in terms of people’s perceptions of women playing football and it was something new. I knew that I wanted to prove people wrong... I knew that I wanted to do it, and that I was quite good at it as well.”
The football player also credited her team’s success in the World Cup, the increased media attention and television coverage of the sport for letting young girls "aspire to be professional footballers".
“I think it’s a lot more accessible,” the athlete stated. “I understand that it’s still a mainly male-dominated sport, but luckily we’re changing that view. We’re trying to play football the right way and we’re trying to give girls the chance to do so, too.”
During the semi-final games in Lyon, France, Houghton had an 84th-minute penalty saved meaning the Lionesses missed out on a place in the final, losing 2-1 to the United States.
On whether she sees herself as a role model to young women, Houghton says she isn’t so conformable with the title.
“I don’t really look at myself like that, I just think I’m Steph and I play football for a living,” she said.
“I know that my job comes with role model status and [an obligation to] do things ‘properly’, and that’s the way I like to be. I like to give everything – whether I’m training or I’m in the gym.”
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