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Period Equality in Wales: Hafod launches project with TOTM period care

We caught up with Research and Innovation Specialist, Amy Richards, to learn more about Hafod’s Period Equality project. This project not only offers a Free Period Care Scheme to their customers, but also gathers insights to hopefully aid widespread positive change in Wales.

Could you please tell us more about the period equality project you’re running in Hafod?

Over the past 9 months, we’ve been researching the impacts and effects affordability of period products has on our customers, and beyond. The aim of the project is to understand what contributes to period poverty so we can better support our customers and build up some evidence towards the Free Periods movement in Wales.

We started off the project by running a question of the month survey with our customers to ask them if they find purchasing period products difficult. It was really shocking to see that 87% agreed it had been a problem for them at some point in their lives. To see that our customers, that we really care about at Hafod, don’t have access to enough products to cover their period has really pushed us to try and find a solution. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve been caught short but imagining facing that every day, every month.

We know there’s a lot more than needs to be done to tackle this in Wales, and firstly we need to give people a voice. We launched a Wales wide survey to help us do that, and to see if this is a problem that’s replicated across Wales. Not only have we asked about access to products but also around education and shame and stigma which all contribute to period poverty.

What are your key objectives with the project?

There are 2 streams of work within the project, the first is to set up a Free Period Product Scheme for our customers in Cardiff and the second is to gather as much insight as we can about the affordability of period products.

Through our initial research so far, we’ve found that period poverty is a result of 3 different drivers.

  • Affordable and accessible: if products are unaffordable, then how else can somebody access them?
  • Education:  poor education and having an understanding of your menstrual needs. If you don’t know what you need, how are you supposed to ask for it?
  • Shame and stigma: periods are still seen as a taboo subject, we’ve all hidden tampons up our sleeve to go to the bathroom! If you’re embarrassed to ask for help or your culture simply doesn’t talk about periods, it’s easy to slip under the net when it comes to equal periods.

Whilst running the pilot, we’ll be reaching out to those who use the service to find out ways we can improve it but to also understand how these 3 drivers might be affecting their day-to-day lives.

We’re only offering the service in Cardiff at the moment so we can take the time to learn as much as we can to put us in a better position when we are ready to scale up the initiative.

Why did you want to supply organic period care products for this initiative and how will these be provided?

It’s really important to remember that just because someone is in financial difficulties, they still have the right to access high-quality products, that aren’t harmful, are comfortable, and effective. Some of the mainstream brands and cheaper alternatives contain ingredients that can have an impact on our bodies and can cause irritation and discomfort. We wanted to make sure that what we distribute is not only good for the people but also good for the planet. We’re really conscious in the R&I team to make decisions based on their environmental impact. And luckily for us, the TOTM warehouse is just down the road!

We’ve set up a Free Periods Team of staff across Hafod who are going to help us get the products out to those who need them. Customers can either fill an online form or speak to a member of staff to order the free products. We’ve ordered 5 different types of products to make sure there are options that suit the different types of periods we all have!

How do you think Wales can go about addressing period poverty in the same way that Scotland has with the free period products bill?

Scotland has set the bar by making period products free for anybody who needs them. We know this is a big problem for the people of Wales and it’s only been exacerbated by the pandemic. For those who normally access free products through school or their workplace, the lockdowns have meant access is even harder for those who need it.

The one thing we know we really need is evidence. If we can say this is a problem for the people of Wales and have concrete evidence behind our statements, this will help us drive forward the conversation with the people at the top. This needs to be a joint effort, so it would be great to link up with as many other organizations that are striving for period dignity across Wales. If you’d be interested in joining a Period Dignity Group of organizations delivering simple initiatives across Wales, please get in touch!

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