Below is the text of a speech I gave to Welsh Labour Conference in 2018 supporting the roll out of free period products in all Welsh Secondary Schools. As a teacher I was all too aware that girls were often missing school as their families were struggling to afford period products for them. Through the work of Wings Cymru, iNEED and Bloody Good Period we became aware that as many as 10% of girls in our schools were struggling to afford period products and that this was having a significant effect on their education. Here on Ynys Môn, Labour Party members in Holyhead including our Women’s Officer at the time, Christine Jukes-Benett, were also campaigning on the issue and they set up a pilot with Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi to provide free period packs in the school.
Following the speech, the Welsh Labour Government acted on this issue. In April 2019 they established the Period Dignity Grant for Schools which provided over 141,000 girls in Welsh primary and secondary schools with a range of sanitary products. In 2020 the budget was increased to ensure that every school and college in Wales had access to £3.1m in new funding to prevent “period poverty” and to ensure there were free sanitary products for any learner who needed them. In addition, a further £220,000 was made available to councils to put the products in libraries and community hubs for women unable to afford them.
This is a fantastic example of Welsh Labour Government listening to the needs of women and girls and acting to ensure that no-one is left behind. I was proud to be a part of the campaign that led to such a positive change.
Sam Egelstaff-Thomas – Welsh Labour Conference 2018 – Venue Cymru, Llandudno
Good Afternoon Conference and Chair.
P’nawn Da Pawb, Croeso I Aberconwy!
I am here today, to give a speech that I never thought that I would have to give. We are here considering this motion because of this cold and callous Westminster Government stripping away our finances and lining the pockets of the few. I am here today to fight for the one in ten girls, aged 14-21 in the UK who cannot afford period products. I want to applaud Rhondda Cynon Taf council who are the first Welsh council to provide free sanitary products to all schools. We need to do more. I never thought that whilst having a female Prime Minister, we would have such a selfish, heartless, imposition that has stripped our Welsh girls’ of their dignity. But this is what they are enduring under this callous and incompetent government!
Does Period Poverty affect Theresa May? No! Does it affect the ‘purse string’ pulling Philip Hammond? Why should they fund gender equality? Why should they care?
Well, we, at our Welsh Labour Conference care!
I am so proud of all the organisations, including Wings Cymru, iNEED and Bloody Good Period, who have been championing this cause. But we need to do even more! We all know of families that are struggling to survive but we never thought this would happen in our schools.The outdated Barnett formula has had a stark impact on poverty levels in our glorious Wales and we can see the impact on our young people every day.
I have worked in education for over 15 years, in the most deprived wards in the U K. I have seen the impact poverty has on learning, on hunger, on fatigue and on young people’s mental health. But I never thought that this situation would happen to our girls. Recently, educational research has linked deprivation and poverty to female underachievement in schools and colleges.
The studies have found that in families that receive Free School Meals or Educational Maintenance Allowances, girls’ attainment slips at the age of 13-14 years old. This reduction is correlated with their decline in attendance. On further exploration, it has been found that non-attendance is correlated with their menstrual cycles. Researchers have interviewed the female participants, and have heard that these girls are unable to afford sanitary products and in some instances are having to revert to using socks!
These self-serving Tories have inflicted poverty upon our girls, through no fault of their own. They are placed at a disadvantage through their gender. Let’s not forget that Osborne attempted to impose a Tampon Tax upon all women. Who in their right mind would do that other than a Tory? This is the result of a lack of diversity at the top and male politicians making decisions on the issues affecting women.
I’d like to see how men would cope with no toilet roll for one week in every month. Conference Hall, I would never inflict the image of Boris Johnson’s pimply pink posterior coping with such an imposition, considering he can’t afford to live on his MPs wages! We must put measures in place, today. To enable our girls to attain their full ability. To prevent them from being victims to aggressive Tory commoditisation of their uteruses. The recent Global Gender Gap Report 2017 states that gender parity is at 75% in Western Europe, but in terms of Educational Attainment, our United Kingdom is ranked 36th behind countries such as Botswana, Brazil, Qatar and Cuba!
We need to do more!
Therefore, we at Aberconwy CLP, would like to strongly propose this motion:
• Let’s follow in the footsteps of Scotland, who has led the way in this area and implore that our government provides free Period Products in all of our secondary schools and colleges.
• We cannot tell our daughters that they can achieve their dreams, if we allow Tory structures to break them down and oppress them!
Vote for this motion and let’s end period poverty today!