Period poverty tackled with local voluntary effort

A quick-thinking Enfield resident responded to the short supply of sanitary pads at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown by producing hundreds of handmade, reusable and environmentally friendly pads.

With the support of Enfield Council, Anne Nicholls assembled a team of volunteers to cut out and sew the pads, which were then passed on to the Enfield Food Bank to distribute as part of their COVID-19 food aid packages.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Enfield Council officers noticed that along with toilet rolls and pasta, it was almost impossible to get hold of sanitary pads. Officers contacted Ms Nicholls and asked if she could support the food packages that were going out to thousands of Enfield residents.

Ms Nicholls, a former Enfield teacher, has extensive experience working with vulnerable school girls in Kenya, particularly on the issue of period poverty and the impact on girls’ education. This charitable work sparked the idea of making the reusable packs of cotton pads.

With many Enfield households already struggling financially, the pandemic brought another pressure to households who did not have easy access to food, let alone sanitary products. ‘Period poverty’ is a growing concern in the UK, with Plan International reporting that one in 10 girls have been unable to afford sanitary products and more than one in 10 (12 per cent) has had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues. Ms Nicholls said: “Periods don’t stop in pandemics. You can’t furlough your period.”

Enfield Council’s Leader, Cllr Nesil Caliskan, said: “I would like to thank Ms Nicholls and her network of volunteers for helping make these products available to hundreds of girls and women who would have otherwise had to go without.

“It is tragic that so many families are living so close to the breadline and have to make a choice between menstrual hygiene products and buying food. In addition, no girl should feel embarrassed or stigmatised. With better education and support, period poverty must end for all girls.”

The pads made by the team of volunteers are not only cost effective – they should last for many months or years if cared for properly – they are kind to skin as they contain no chemicals, adhesives or other toxic ingredients. In addition, they are environmentally friendly as they are crafted from 100 per cent natural cotton. Most shop-bought pads can contain the equivalent of up to four plastic bags which can take hundreds of years to decompose.

It is estimated that each woman uses between 11,000 and 16,000 tampons and/or pads in their lifetime – that’s about 200kgs of tampons, pads and applicators thrown away per woman. Much of this ends in landfill or down the toilet.

If any women's groups or community organisations would like further information on the reusable pads, please contact Enfield Council for more details by emailing .

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