Buy one, give one: British business tackles 'period poverty'

by Lee Mannion | @leemannion | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 18:26 GMT

Feminine hygiene products are seen in a pharmacy in London, Britain March 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Image Caption and Rights Information

By Lee Mannion

LONDON, Jan 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The first business in Britain aiming to address period poverty with a "buy one, give one" model has launched. For every pack of sanitary pads purchased, another will be given to someone who can't afford one.

Hey Girls, a social enterprise that aims to turn a profit as well as doing good, helps girls from low-income families across the country who struggle to afford sanitary protection.

West Lothian council, near Scotland's capital Edinburgh, has become one of its first customers, buying sanitary products for 11 schools, and getting a two-for-one deal in the process because it also receives the donated products.

"It is cheaper than they can buy from their current suppliers," said Celia Hodson, founder of Hey Girls. "We hope other councils will see the value and follow them."

Individuals who purchase from the company's website will see their 'give one' donations distributed at schools clubs for girls. The products are made from bamboo and corn starch, so are environmentally friendly, Hodson said.

survey by the children's charity Plan International found that 10 percent of girls in Britain have been unable to afford sanitary products.

More than one in 10 of them have had to improvise sanitary wear when they couldn't afford them.

Hodson said she has also met girls who say their religion forbids them buying sanitary products who have bought nappies and cut them up.

She has started the business with her two daughters, who were also concerned about the so-called "tampon tax" - a levy on sanitary products.

Tampons were not classed as essentials when Britain joined the European Union in the 1970s and current EU rules forbid states from adding new items to an approved list of goods and services exempt from value-added tax.

In 2015 Britain pledged the revenue would go to women's rights charities, although there has been controversy that the money has been given to charities that deal with the fallout from domestic abuse.

"It is so important that we seek sustainable ways to address period poverty in the UK that are not reliant on the government," Hodson said in a statement.

Opposition lawmaker Paula Sheriff has been critical of the British government's position on the "tampon tax".

"It's great that women are organising and taking action on this issue but it is a shame that government and big business haven't been so quick to follow their lead," Sheriff said by email.

(Reporting by Lee Mannion @leemannion; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.