By Clodagh Meaney
You know that feeling in your abdomen that comes around once a month? Something is stirring; it's Aunt Flo. So you rush off and pop on a pad, because you just know your period is about to drop. But what happens when you get your period and you don't have any pads to save the inevitable bleed through?
It's something that has happened to me on more than one occasion. I lose track of my period and it arrives by surprise. At a Paramore concert in 2009 I was front row, and period or no period, I was staying there to scream the lyrics back at my favourite band. I rode out the concert until I got to the bathroom at the back of the 3 Arena; but at this stage I had leaked through my jeans. It was 3 hours before I got home, back to the sticks, and Lord was I uncomfortable. Another time it sprung itself on me at a summer outing with my boyfriend and his family. He had no sisters for me to ask, and I had just met the other women in his family. I should have asked for a tampon, but I didn't. I was way too shy.
When this does happen to me, I get to the nearest bathroom and I'm able to manufacture an emergency soakage system. I just roll up tissue paper, and stuff it inside my vagina until I can grab a pad or a tampon. I'm privileged to know I can easily grab a pad or a tampon at home, or have money to go to the shop and get myself a supply.
But for some women, my "emergency" fix is how they have to deal with their entire period, every time they get it.
A survey conducted by Plan International interviewed 1,100 young girls between the ages of 12 and 19. Their findings concluded that 50% of participants struggle to afford sanitary products every month with 1 in 10 resorting to using tissue, and 1 in 7 asking a friend for supplies.
The staff over at RSVP Magazine are petitioning the Irish government, calling for free period supplies for people in low income households, as well as students at school, colleges and universities around the country.
Late last year, Dublin City Council followed in the footsteps of many international organisations by making sanitary products available for free at all of their buildings, including community centres, swimming pools and libraries.
'In Ireland, brand name sanitary products are priced between €2-€6 a pack, while a pack of pain relief tablets will typically cost around €4, added to this is the cost of soiled underwear, and that’s just your basic needs,' states the petition.
One RSVP reader said: 'It’s not just girls, we should think about those who suffer from fibroids, endometriosis it's very costly. Normal sanitary towels, menstrual cups, reusable products aren't sufficient. It's necessary to use incontinence pads which are very costly but the only way to avoid embarrassment.'
And for homeless women, the situation is even worse as they may not even have access to basic facilities to take a shower. Not-for-profit organisation Homeless Period Ireland have been working hard to collect period supplies for homeless and underprivileged people all over the country who may otherwise go without.
Period poverty is a growing concern in Ireland, and this petition is asking the government to step up, and take action to eradicate the problem faced by many people, once and for all.
You can sign their petition to end period poverty here.