Women in Cambridge can now pick up free sanitary products from Arbury Court Library, thanks to a new initiative launched by Labour County and City Councillors in an attempt to tackle period poverty.

Period poverty is a major issue affecting increasing numbers of women and girls in the UK; a 2017 survey by Plan International estimated that as many as 1 in 10 aged between 14 and 21 were unable to afford sanitary products, and that 12% were having to improvise with toilet rolls, socks and newspapers.  Over 25% of women in a 2019 study been forced to miss work or school because of period poverty.

County Councillor for Castle, Claire Richards, who helped launch the scheme, explained;

“Cambridge is so often seen as a wealthy city, but we don’t have to look too far to see that inequality is a real issue here. In fact, it has been suggested that Cambridge is the most unequal city in Western Europe.

“So often, women in poverty are faced with hard decisions – whether to feed or clothe themselves and their families, whether to pay the utility bills or keep a roof over their heads.  That is the reality that a lot of women here in Cambridge are facing every day.

“We know that period poverty means women often miss school or work, which can have a far-reaching impact on their lives in terms of wage levels, job security and educational attainment.

“That’s not what we want for Cambridge residents.  They deserve better, and that’s why this initiative we are launching is so important.  I hope that we can continue to take this forward and help to combat this period poverty now and in the future.”

Arbury Court is currently the only place in the city where donations are accepted and where women can also come to collect sanitary products.  Eventually councillors would like to see the initiative extended across Cambridge.

Cllr Jocelynne Scutt, County Councillor for Arbury, highlighted the potential of the scheme but remained critical of the Government’s lack of action;

“It would be fantastic to see this happening in venues across the city.  We could even have the central library as a donation point.  There is such potential to support women and girls across Cambridge, and I look forward to the initiative going from strength to strength.

But let’s not forget the reasons why it’s needed in the first place.  It is disgraceful that we live in a society where our national government adheres to austerity policies that deny women the dignity, security and wellbeing that they’re entitled to.”

Cllr Anna Smith, Labour’s Executive Councillor for Communities, also welcomed the initiative;

“It’s brilliant to see a scheme like this one in Cambridge, which will help so many women. Nobody should be unable to access basic sanitary products because of their financial position which is why I’m delighted to see the council supporting this scheme, as part of our commitment to tackling inequality.  We have also committed to providing free sanitary products in all of the city council’s community centres.”

You can drop your donations at Arbury Court Library during opening hours (Monday 3 – 6 p.m., Tuesday and Friday 9 – 5, Thursday 9 – 1 and Saturday 10 – 2).

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