It sounds unbelievable but many young women and girls in Teesside are unable to afford sanitary products, often using newspapers and cardboard as a replacement.

A recent survey found that 1 in 10 cannot afford menstrual products and many of them are missing school and work because of this.

Karen Beck, a volunteer at The White Feather Project in North Ormesby, is now handing out free sanitary products to anyone who needs help. “Anyone can just come in,” she says. “No questions asked. You want some? Come and get them.”

The White Feather Project opened up their pop up shop at St Alphonsus Church Hall in North Ormesby. Their mission is to help the local community eliminate food poverty but they have found other struggles in the area.

A Facebook group called ‘Teesside Help’ approached the charity after they encountered an increasing amount of people needing tampons and pads.

Talie Norfolk, a moderator of the group, says, “Women don’t choose to have periods but monthly we pay a lot of money because of it. It’s a problem that has existed for a long time that has now been highlighted by Covid-19.”

Sanitary products currently have 5% VAT added to their price, but this is subject to change after the Brexit transition period. The tax is currently donated to women’s charities due to a petition that started in 2015, gaining around 310,000 signatures.
Due to the cost of the products and the VAT, many people are unable to afford the necessary products. They have to go without or find a replacement which is often uncomfortable and unhygienic for them.

Karen and her team of volunteers are working endlessly to help the people of Teesside. Within two weeks of the project’s launch, they helped twenty women who needed this kind of support.

It’s clear to see that they are passionate about their work and the community they live in. They beamed with pride as we discussed the help they have received.

“We went to local shops,” Karen explains, “and we received a lot of donations. The shops have also placed baskets in their stores for anyone to go and donate. Everyone has been so generous and it’s amazing how Teesside has come together.”

But their work doesn’t stop there. They are wanting to collaborate with schools and councils to provide not only free sanitary products but also educate young girls as well as boys on periods.

Lynn Davies, who is also another volunteer, says, “Some workplaces aren’t accepting about the pain management – it’s not normalised in society. I’ve seen women lose jobs because of it. In schools, you are taught how to put a condom on a banana but not how to use sanitary products.”

This group of women are determined to make a change in Teesside, to provide and educate both men and women on periods and highlight the issues of period poverty.

The White Feather Project can be found at:
St Alphonsus Church Hall,
95 Westbourne Grove
North Ormesby
They’re open Monday to Friday 11am to 1pm.