Ahead of International Women’s Day, Minister for Women and Equalities and Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, announced a new UK government campaign to break the silence and end period poverty globally by 2030.
In many developing countries, it is estimated that half of all women and girls are forced to use rags, grass and paper to manage their periods. A lack of access to products, and the stigma and taboo that still surrounds periods, can force them to miss school or work, or even to live in isolated huts during their periods each month. In the UK, Girl Guiding UK found that 26% of girls aged 11-21 feel embarrassed talking to people about their period, and 21% had been made to feel ashamed or embarrassed about their period.
The campaign includes:
- £2 million in UK aid support, through the Department of International Development (DFID), to help organisations which are already working to stamp out period poverty around the world;
- a new advisory task force of government departments (including the Department of Health, Department for Education and Department for Work and Pensions), manufacturers, retailers, social enterprises and charities. A pot of £250,000 funding will kick start this work, which will also lever funding and expertise from the private sector to develop a sustainable solution to period poverty in the UK; and
- a commitment supporting 54 projects (totalling £1.5 million) working across 27 countries to help girls to manage their periods with dignity. This is part of UK aid’s ongoing support to Amplify Change
Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt said:
“Empowerment starts when you are young. Girls should be able to focus on their education and their future without being worried about or embarrassed by their periods.
“There are British entrepreneurs and businesses already doing fantastic work to tackle period poverty and I want us to partner and support them to really make a change to the lives of those who need it most.
“This is a global issue. Without education, women and girls around the world won’t be able to take the steps to reach their true potential.”
This focus on vulnerable women and girls, at home and around the world, is part of Ms Mordaunt’s new mission. Anew strategy, to be published in spring, will set out how government will strive to economically empower all women – particularly those who are financially vulnerable, in low paid jobs or who currently don’t work.
In her speech Ms Mordaunt set out some of the life moments that prevent women from being able to achieve their goals:
- By the time their first child is aged 20, women have, on average, been in paid work for four years less than men
- 20% of women aged 55-64 are informal carers
- Lower earning women taking short breaks to care for children and returning to work part-time accumulate less than a third of the private pensions income of a man working full-time
As part of the GEO’s work to support all women, in February Ms Mordaunt also announced £500,000 to support vulnerable women – including victims of domestic abuse, homelessness or substance abuse – to return to work.
To ensure the GEO is at the heart of the government’s work on equalities, it will join Cabinet Office from 1 April. GEO will work across government and with business and civil society to tackle persistent inequalities that limit economic empowerment at every stage of life.