This article was written by Emily Wilson, CEO and Founder of award-winning charity Irise International. Irise is a global leader in menstrual health programming, research, advocacy and policy development, transforming peoples' lives through period equality – and our first 2023 Game Changer Grant recipient.
Modibodi was so proud to support iRise International UK’s Every Period Counts campaign. We caught up with CEO Emily Wilson to reflect on the successes and huge impact that’s been achieved by the campaign.
Through the first ever Modibodi Game Changer Grant, Irise and Modibodi were able to combine their expertise and put it behind young activists and their agenda for Period Equality in the UK.
Despite, national policies and budgets in place to support periods in schools, over a third of girls across the UK were still unable to get period products in school when they needed them and were missing out on class as a result – an estimated 3.5 million days of school every year!
Powering youth-led action for Period Dignity at school.
Period poverty and shame had been an issue of national importance for many years however it was worsening due to the cost-of-living crisis. More young people were experiencing anxiety and indignity each month and missing school classes.
Giving youth a voice and a platform to address those in power was a catalyst to the success of the program. iRise brought together over 600 young people and 17 charities to take action, creating the ‘Every Period Counts’ campaign.
The Modibodi Game Changer Grant helped to host & establish:
- The Empower Period “Summit”
- Co-production workshop & activities via “Our Voice Heard”
- The Empower Period Committee
The campaign enabled a nationally representative survey with over 1,000 girls and young people also collected over 600 the period ‘horror stories’.
Here are just a few stories shared by young people during the campaign:
“I’d use one of my socks from that day overnight and then go to school the next day using the second sock from the day before. I didn’t really have a choice because I couldn’t get pads and toilet paper wouldn’t hold but my socks absorbed, and I wasn’t creating any more washing. The [free period product] scheme was out 4 years and I’d never heard of it."
“At school, I asked a male teacher to go to the toilet as I thought, I was starting my period. He denied me the right to go to the toilet unless I explained why I should go during a lesson. I refused as I shouldn’t have had to explain myself as to why in front of everybody. I told my teacher aside why I needed to go to the toilet and he replied with, “You should know when your period is coming.”
Making noise on Global Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023
On Global Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023, over 200 young people paraded through Westminster to deliver their stories straight to 10 Downing Street and call to action to make Period Dignity a reality in UK schools.
Thanks to knowledge sharing from Modibodi, a well-planned PR approach and a co-designed stunt for Every Period Counts, the media around the campaign:
- Reached an estimated 719 million people
- Included coverage on the BBC
- Sparked conversations around the support for periods in schools across the country
Government Ministers responded promptly, and The Department for Education organised Roundtables for schools and young people across, making significant improvements to their policy and guidance around periods in schools, based on their feedback. Feedback from the Every Period Counts stakeholders was shared with the UK government’s Women’s Health ambassador, Lesley Regan, who is chairing this process.
How Irise will continue making change
The campaign will continue to drive impact as young campaigners continue to support each other’s work via Irise hosted virtual spaces and will come together to create and promote a model toilet policy for schools in 2024.
An online survey completed by 20 young people who took part in the campaign found that:
- 82% feel less anxious about their period and feel they have more knowledge about their own period and body
- 88% feel more able to talk about periods without feeling ashamed
- 52% are more able to participate in work and school during their period
- 58% say their mental health and wellbeing has improved
- 81% have increased their confidence and ability to lead
- 82% feel more positively about their future
The first ever Modibodi Game Changer Grant enabled powerful collaboration between social business, charity, youth and government because its only when we work together that we truly change the world for the better. You can read the full report HERE.