Uttlesford District Council should provide free women’s sanitary products so that no local girl or woman has to face the indignity of a lack of menstrual products, said Saffron Walden Constituency Labour Party at its annual International Women’s Day event at Saffron Walden Day Centre on Saturday.
Saffron Walden Labour Women’s Officer Sanjukta Ghosh launched the party’s petition, stating that based on statistics by the End Child Poverty Coalition, around 2,300 girls live in poverty in Uttlesford. She said: “In one of the richest districts of the fifth richest country in the world, this is completely unacceptable. It is a real, local issue which we as a collective can resolve. If toilet paper is provided freely in public toilets, period products should also be available.
“For the sake of dignity for girls and women, Saffron Walden Constituency Labour Party call on Uttlesford District Council and other local authorities in the area to provide free menstrual products in all of its public facilities. Schools, libraries, youth centres, public toilets, should all provide full access to a range of period products.”
Sanjukta launched the petition, which calls for non-means tested distribution in public buildings, such as toilets and libraries, and a drive to assist vulnerable sections of the population, notably households dependent on food banks and people facing housing insecurity.
Also speaking at the event was socialist Kashmiri human rights activist Faria Attique who spoke on the violence, discrimination and patriarchy faced by women in Pakistani- and Indian-administered Kashmir. She also highlighted the cultural taboos against menstruating women, who face exclusion and are gagged from speaking out against period poverty in Kashmir.
Gemma Davies, a nurse and a local Labour party member, spoke on sex discrimination within the NHS and the need for trade union organisation to campaign for women’s voices, both among staff and patients.
Siobhan Sliman, an activist with the Pension Reform Alliance and local Labour member, highlighted the problems many women now face as a result of changes to the retirement age, which has impoverished many working women.
Pamela Jenner, a retired local journalist, emphasised the need for trade unions to tackle ongoing sex discrimination within the news industry and challenge sexist stereotypes perpetuated in the media.