Last week FabLittleBag and We Are Girls in Sport joined forces to launch ‘Play On’, a campaign for free period products in sports clubs and venues.
We are Girls in Sport aims to help girls find a sport they love through inspiring blog posts and coverage of girls and women in sports from around the world. Girls need the opportunities to form healthy habits for their mental and physical well-being as well as the socio-economic benefits of being active and new friendships formed. There are many barriers to girls being active and periods is one of them. We Are Girls in Sport want to drive change and break down these barriers so that girls can not only find a sport they love but also stick at it through adolescence, creating a positive foundation for adulthood.
Caroline of We are Girls in Sport (WAGIS) got in touch with me after an experience she had in some clubhouse toilets. This is what she saw on the wall:
‘If you require sanitary wear, please ask at the café.’
As Caroline says, “Picture this: a young teenage girl who’s just realised that her period started, and she doesn’t have a tampon or a pad. That girl has to finish in the toilet, perhaps having to improvise to clean herself up, and then stand in a queue of mums, dads, spectators, and players waiting for their Saturday morning bacon butty, and then ask for a pad or tampon. Imagine the anxiety as she waits. Does she need to pay for it? Does she even have any money on her? Will everyone hear her?”
Sadly, this is common up and down the UK and further afield too. Here at Fab, we have heard many tales like this and seen first-hand some very period-unfriendly looks: lack of a sanitary bin (actually illegal), no period products, free or otherwise, and in some places, really poor hand washing facilities.
Why is Play On needed?
Because as Martha Silcott CEO of FabLittleBag puts it:
“ In 2022 girls need to be able to access free period products if needed and to be able to comfortably and confidently dispose of them. We need to see period products as equivalent to toilet roll provision and educate girls about the polluting effects of flushing period products. Girls need to feel seen at their clubs and their basic needs met”
According to Women in Sport there is an almost 50 percent drop-out rate of teenage girls when it comes to being active and one of the many reasons this statistic is so high is periods. We know that teenage girls feel very self-conscious about their bodies and being active, and their periods only heighten these feelings.
Teenage girls, their periods can be unpredictable. They haven’t settled down into a regular, monthly rhythm and so their menstrual cycle can take them unawares. And just as the timing is predictable, the flow can be too, with some days being heavier or lighter than others and perhaps no two months being the same.
The erratic nature of periods at this time of life can lead to anxiety and then doubt about even turning up for training or a match. If they are at a sports club when they need period products and there aren’t any, a girl may ‘make do’ with toilet paper rather than ask someone. This could lead to leakage, embarrassment, and piling on more anxiety about playing sports when they have their period. Another common issue is not being able to dispose of period products; not enough toilet roll to wrap it in, non-bin, or the bin is disgusting… this leads to girls not wanting to change and trying to “hang on'' invariably this too leads to leaking through and the inevitable embarrassment and awkwardness that causes – and at worst – to simply not returning to the– this is the problem that WAGIS and FabLittleBag are trying to fix
We need to help girls be active by covering the basics about periods; easy access to free products and easy confident ways of disposal.. That also leads to slowly breaking down their barriers to sport and the outdated taboos that surround periods.
The campaign: Play On
The campaign aims to revolutionise sports club toilets and venues so that no girl or young woman is ever caught short. We want every sports club to provide easily accessible free period wear and hygienic easy disposal options for girls so that girls are never caught short, and never left having to flush or do the Handbag Smuggle….]. Instead, they know they’re supported by their club, coaches, and trainers and so can perform to their optimum.
The campaign encourages girls to identify period provision issues with their club and then drive change with suggested talking points for girls as well as helpful blogs and FAQs. In a world where young people can often feel helpless, we want girls to be activists and positively shape their future in sports. Caroline and I are here to answer questions, of course.
There’s also a questionnaire for girls to complete focusing on their period experiences which we would love girls to complete. They can be completely anonymous, we don’t even need their email addresses or social media handles, but the information will be really useful to Fab, We are Girls in Sport, and our supporters The Well HQ.
We hope you’ll join us in our campaign to help girls Play On, no matter the time of the month.