No girl should have to miss a lesson or stay home from school due to period poverty.
This is the simple premise behind a scheme led by a Worthing mother to give students in the area free access to sanitary protection at school.
Kat Naish has launched a Worthing branch of the Red Box Project initiative, which sponsors and stocks a red box full of sanitary towels, tampons and spare underwear at schools.
Kat, who has a seven-year-old son as well as several nieces, said it was a sad fact that, in our area, there are girls who are staying home when they have their period or resorting to using socks or wads of toilet paper because they cannot afford sanitary products.
She said: “I couldn’t believe it at first when I heard about this project.
“I was really surprised that it is actually an issue in schools, that we have this kind of thing happening.
“We want to make sure girls don’t stay off school, that’s the main reason.
“It’s all about dignity.
“They should be concerned with work and exams, periods should not be anything to worry about.”
Kat, who runs the popular site www.worthingmums.com and has recently moved from Worthing to Upper Beeding, has teamed up with her sister-in-law Nicola Naish as well as resident Cat Henderson who has strong links to local churches to run the project.
The team has set up collection points across Worthing, such as in Nicola’s business Bandana health and fitness in Tarring Road, where the public can drop off donations of sanitary products.
Kat said the support from the community had been ‘amazing’.
“It’s simple to support, it’s just a case of adding a few extra packets to your weekly shop and dropping them to us,” she said.
The Red Box Project Worthing is already working in three schools in the area, with four more – both primary and secondary – in the pipeline.
Kat said: “Schools really appreciate it – they love it. It’s really apparent that it’s really needed.”
While some schools already have a similar scheme, Kat said it is all too often funded by teachers themselves.
Kat said she hopes to expand the scheme further afield into schools in Shoreham and other surrounding towns.
One in ten teenage girls has, at some point, been unable to afford sanitary products, according to a 2017 survey by Plan International UK.
But Kat said there were many reasons girl may not have the products they need.
She said: “It’s not always poverty driven.
“Sometimes there are cultural issues and these things are not discussed in the family, or even families where the mum is no longer around and the dad doesn’t know where to start.
“In families with three or four daughters with a single mum struggling to make ends meet, children don’t want to ask sometimes.
“And actually, it does cost quite a lot to support more than one girl.”
According to the charity Bloody Good Period, the average lifetime cost of having a period is approximately £4,800.
Kat said: “It’s not something you can make savings on or cut down on.
“They are not luxury items or items that you have a choice over.
“They are needed, as much as water and toilet paper.
“It’s not something we have a choice of needing.”
In Scotland, a Sanitary Products Bill which would create a statutory duty for free provision of sanitary products is taking steps forward and several petitions calling for similar legislation in England have been set up.
Kat said: “The end goal is hopefully we will see something happen.
“The Government will provide these for us and we won’t have to do this anymore.”
Kat is calling for more businesses to host collection points. Contact The Red Box Project Worthing on Facebook.
You can also donate to a fundraising page for the project here.