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.
More than 2,000 people gathered outside Downing Street in support of the movement in December 2017.
Ms George described the government’s announcement as a “huge step forward for gender equality”.
“This is a victory for everyone who has been campaigning to eradicate period poverty in schools,” she said.
“Periods should never hold back a child from achieving their true potential, and now, after two years of campaigning, we will see menstrual products available for free in all English secondary schools. We’re going to keep fighting for better education and work to destigmatise periods.”
According to children’s charity Plan International UK, almost half the girls in the UK have missed an entire day of school because of their period and one in 10 women aged between 14 and 21 are unable to afford sanitary products.
Anna Miles and Gemma Abbott from the Red Box Project paid tribute to the “huge commitment of our coordinators on the ground” and the “unstoppable energy of many activists” for helping the #FreePeriods campaign succeed.
“We know from our work, in thousands of schools across the UK, that the need is not limited to secondary schools and colleges, but can arise for any child in full-time compulsory education, including those at primary school,” they said.
“We hope to see further commitment from the government in meeting the needs of all students who menstruate.
“No child should have to miss school because they have their period and they cannot use menstrual products.”
A spokesperson for the National Association of Head Teachers has described the free period product scheme as “the right thing to do”.
While the National Education Union (NEU) also praised the scheme, it criticised Mr Hammond’s lack of ability to address the national school funding crisis in the Spring Statement.
“The Chancellor had an opportunity today to end uncertainty for schools about budget planning. He failed,” said NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney.
Several Twitter users have been celebrating the pledge for free sanitary products in English secondary schools.
“Finally, girls won’t miss school because they don’t have pads, and girls and boys will learn about #menstruationmatters,” tweeted newsreader Anila Chowdhry.
“Legendary. So many congratulations,” wrote mental health campaigner Natasha Devon.
In August 2017, it was reported Scotland was to become the first country in the world to provide women with universal access to free sanitary products.
A year later, the Scottish government announced free sanitary products would become available to students in schools, colleges and universities thanks to a £5.2m fund.
This article was originally published on Saturday 9 March when the news of the free sanitary product scheme was announced by the Free Periods campaign group.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies