Bristol City Council spearheads campaign to eradicate period poverty

eradicate period poverty
© Lesia Sementsova |

Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Young People on Bristol City Council, discusses the work being done by Bristol City Council to eradicate period poverty

The decision to tackle period poverty in Bristol on a city wide scale was a conscious one. Our approach, working alongside businesses, the education and the third sectors, to try and eradicate one of the largely hidden indicators of poverty was taken during the first year of Bristol’s One City Plan.

One City Plan

The One City Plan, launched by Mayor Marvin Rees in 2019, is an ambitious timeline that endeavours to forge a collective approach to solving the city’s most fundamental problems and inequalities. The One City Office links business leaders and employers with our statutory services and our voluntary and charity sector with the aim of pooling both resources and brainpower to get underneath systemic problems and issues and then getting the required commitment to make real change.

Period poverty came to the attention of many for the first time in 2018 when Plan International produced a report indicating that a staggering 140,000 girls were missing school every year due to their period. Many young people simply didn’t have the money to by the period products they needed or were concerned about leaking through or even asking teachers if they could leave the classroom due to strict ‘toilet policies’. After speaking to young people in Bristol we knew that we knew this was a problem in here too and we decided to take action.

Early on I agreed with colleagues that if we were going to take political action on this issue it had to be real and solutions focussed. There are numerous campaigners, charities and health experts who have been talking about and looking for solutions to period poverty for a long time so our first action was to bring these experts together for the UK’s first-ever Period Poverty Summit. With our learning from the session, a small financial contribution from the councils budget and the endorsement of City Partners we were able to move forward.

Period Friendly Places

Our solution, Period Friendly Places, is a city-wide donation and distribution network meaning that over time, anyone who needs to access period products in Bristol will be able to do so easily and with dignity.

The premise – that those who can contribute by donating products, and these are then distributed to less wealthy areas through community centres, libraries, leisure centres, pharmacies and GP surgeries – enables the whole city to contribute and be part of the movement.

We built strong relationships with corporate businesses who act as donation points and help us to physically distribute products. Bristol’s tech community played a huge role – giving up time to organise and run a ‘hackathon’ and donating countless development hours to enable our web-based app which allows people to find products across the city using GPS.

Period Poverty Summit

We launched Period Friendly Bristol in December 2019, just 11 months on from our first Period Poverty Summit, receiving great media coverage and support. Bristol is now a place where conversations about menstrual health, periods and period dignity are commonplace. Our young people are empowered through knowledge and learning but also because they know that their city is a place where we strive to make periods affordable for all.

Interest in our work has come from across the globe including the City of Los Angeles and New York, and our intention is to link this global work with the UN Sustainable Goals around Gender Equality. We will offer our open data web app and branding for other cities to adopt this model of local government working alongside business and community groups to tackle head-on a social issue that sadly, due to the impact of COVID19, is likely to become more acute in the months and years ahead.


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