Before the pandemic, Alice Bates regularly volunteered at the Manchester-based charity, Every Month, where she and other helpers prepared period packs – containing pads, tampons and a bar of chocolate as a treat – for distribution at food banks and refugee shelters
“At the moment that’s difficult,” said Bates, who during the lockdown has turned her living room into a mini production line. “I’m making the packs at home and distribute them where needed.”
Charities like Every Month, which supply menstrual products to refugees, asylum seekers and homeless women, have reported increased demand for their services during the pandemic, whilst facing a challenge to how they operate.
“People have lost their jobs, their businesses are closing,” said Hannah Aziz, a trustee at Every Month. “Some are having to make a decision [between] using sanitary products or feeding their kids”.
Before the crisis, Bloody Good Period, a charity set up by Gabby Edlin in 2016, liaised with refugees centres and food banks to distribute period products to those in need.
But with many of the places they delivered to now closed, the organisation has been forced to change strategy. It has opened a trust-based take-what-you-need scheme at its storage unit in London and is also delivering products direct to individuals. “Some have physical disabilities, have to self-isolate or have economic barriers to purchase the products for themselves,” said Alix Smith, a team member at Bloody Good Period.
Doyin is one of the women that Bloody Good Period has been helping get menstrual products in these unusual circumstances. “I have been very unwell, so I have had to self-isolate. This has been so hard for me, because I have very heavy periods that last for two weeks,” she said. “I was trying to use tissue but I am running out of that, too. I have had to cut up some of my clothes and use them instead.”
I’m making the packs at home and distribute them where needed
Both Bloody Good Period and Every Month have reported several calls from NHS staff asking for help with period products. Shift work, busy schedules and panic buying have left some frontline workers struggling to find pads and tampons.
“Our policy has always been to provide products to people who can’t access them and that’s why now we are starting to supply products to NHS staff too,” said Smith. “Struggling to find products adds another level of stress and we want to help NHS staff to not worry if they are going to find their products.”
Image: Velizar Ivanov