Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, my Cabinet Lead for Women, Children and Families.
After a whirlwind 14 months of endless meetings, email and lots of hard work; today is the day that we launch Period Friendly Bristol.
This project, born out of the desire to correct an injustice that many didn’t know existed in Bristol, has involved some 200 different people or partners and has demonstrated how Bristol can truly work as One City, with this having been identified by city leaders as a key priority for the One City Approach for 2019.
In 2017, 140,000 young people missed school because of period poverty. In Bristol 40% of students have missed school because of their period. These are huge numbers that undeniably have an effect on education and especially, physical education.
These shocking statistics gave us the impetus and energy to focus on making a real change in Bristol. We used all mechanisms open to us – we passed a unanimous full council motion, we held the world’s first Period Poverty Summit and took our ambitions to the whole city where it was voted as a key aim for 2019.
So we set to work with a small but dedicated team determined to make a change that no other city in the world has attempted. We came up with two key strands of work.
We commissioned local menstrual health experts, the Real Period Project, and anti-plastic campaigners, City to Sea, to develop a Bristol standard education programme that is free to access for all schools in the city. Our intention is to change attitudes to periods through education – we want boys to understand menstrual health, as well as girls and we want to raise awareness of product choice in line with our ambitions to reduce plastic use. We also want to educate school leaders around toilet policies, access to products and ensuring that teaching staff are sensitive to the needs of young people.
We worked with the Youth Council and Plimsoll Productions to develop a short film and survey to explore young people’s views and experiences of Period Poverty and Stigma. The experiences of young people then informed the work of the education programme ensuring our programme is fit for purpose.
A key and innovative element of the work is a city wide donation and distribution network. We want Bristol to be a place where no one has to worry about having their period. Working alongside corporate partners we are now poised to redistribute donations in the communities that need them most. From January our pilot will launch with 16 community centres, GP surgeries, leisure centres and libraries involved from the outset. A really exciting element of this project has been working with Bristol’s tech and data community to create a web app to support our network. Seeing people come together on a rainy weekend in September to spend their time researching and creating a site to support vulnerable people in Bristol was humbling and uplifting.
Today is our opportunity to share this body of work with the city and to ask for more engagement and support. We want businesses to step forward to become involved, we want to see donations across the city and we want to truly make Bristol a city where everyone can afford to have their period.