Young girls are missing school because they don't have the correct sanitary products - and more needs to be done to help them, an islander who is fighting period poverty on the island has said.
Anti-period poverty campaigner Steffy Bechelet would like to see the government provide tampons and sanitary pads freely in all schools.
Until that time comes, however, she's making her own moves to provide support. Steffy is one of two local volunteers running the Red Box Project, a national community project to help end period poverty by providing red boxes filled with free period products to local schools.
With Sarah Richardson, she has recently relaunched the project in the island. The pair has been raising awareness of the project as well as of the issue of period poverty – while collecting sanitary products to fill their boxes with.
While Steffy says a lot of people have shown their support for the campaign – including the Co-Op which hosted the Jersey Modern Quilt group, who created 100 little purses for the pads – a lot of islanders didn’t want to touch on the subject of periods.
“Periods are an icky, weird subject. You touch on it in school but that’s it,” she said. “A lot of people also don’t want to talk about poverty in Jersey, but they don’t realise that a lot of people don’t have excess finances at the end of the month especially if they are renting.”
Pictured: Girls in Jersey are missing out on school because of their period.
What many people don’t realise, Steffy adds, is that there is a real need for the Red Box Project in in the island because some families can’t afford sanitary products.
Girls are also often embarrassed and ashamed about their period and not having the necessary products can lead them to miss school - something Steffy wants to avoid at all costs.
“If you think about it a period is sometimes between three and seven days, it’s potentially a week of education they are missing every month, this has a detrimental impact. Girls staying in education is the key to progress, they shouldn’t have to miss school because of a totally normal part of reproductive system," she told Express.
Pictured: The Soroptimists International Jersey launched a campaign to destigmatise periods last month.
She continued: “We want to make sure the barriers are taken down. Girls feel embarrassed and vulnerable with their periods, it causes more stress. Period is awkward enough already, let’s remove stigma and shame from it. It’s ok to say period, vagina or tampon.”
Steffy's thoughts are echoed by Soroptimists International Jersey, who recently launched the 'No More Taboo. Period.' campaign last month to destigmatise periods and teckle period poverty.
Part of those efforts involved collecting fresh sanitary towels and tampon donations at a stall in town and donating items to the Red Box Project.
Pictured: One of the Red Boxes put together by Steffy and Sarah.
Three boxes have already been delivered to Hautlieu, Grainville and Le Rocquier, but more schools - including primary schools – have already been asking for their own. Highlands College, Brook Clinic and youth clubs have also shown interest.
Posters have been put up in schools so that girls know where to find the boxes, and Sarah and Steffy have also distributed material so that schools can run assemblies on the topic.
“It’s running itself pretty well,” Steffy says. “We’ve been very lucky with the support that we’ve had. It’s important to make sure no one misses education.”
Pictured: The Red Boxes have been distributed to Le Rocquier, Hautlieu and Grainville schools.
With the growing awareness around environmental issues, Steffy has promised that the project will try and look into sustainable alternatives for tampons and pads to fill up their boxes.
In the longer term, they would like to see the government provide pads and tampons to all schools – even if it would mean the end of their project.
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