Bleedin’ Saor: tackling period poverty and stigma

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Bleedin’ Saor logo. (Photo credit: Bleedin’ Saor)

Menstruation. TOM (Time of the month, FYI). The blob. Mother Nature’s gift. Whatever you call periods, they are sore. And bloody. Bloody sore, actually.

Aptly so then, that a non-profit student organisation that aims to dispel period poverty and stigma is called Bleedin’ Saor. Founders Brogan Henderson, Hannah Stevens and Sam Calder feel the name is perfect, both for the obvious nod to a woman’s monthly cramp-laden cycle and as saor translates to ‘free, without barriers’ in Gaelic.

Bleedin’ Saor is the design and social media branch of the collaborative A Bloody Big Project that includes Hey Girls – who are a buy one give one social enterprise – innovative marking team at Wire Media and the Bloody Big Brunch event enterprise.

The three Edinburgh Napier Product Design students have been commissioned with the task of designing dispensing stations to replace the ever-so appealing shabby cupboards that currently stock the free sanitary products at all three campuses. Tucked out of sight and reach, advertised with a singular poster limply hanging on by one pin, the current cupboards hardly help discourage the stigma and fail to make the products conveniently accessible.

Bleedin’ Saor and the university are keen to change that.

Next week, Hannah, Brogan and Sam will be trialling temporary sanitary stations to gage a public reaction, in order to design the ideal final solution. They have designed open, basket-like dispensing stations and hope for the final solutions to be situated at locations that have 24-hour multiple access points. Their goal is to bring freeness to a woman’s period – both in terms of cost and shame.

“There’s nothing wrong with the products being there, they don’t have to be hidden,” says Hannah. “We’ve focused on making it so that the products are there and where you can see them – we want people to get used to the fact that this is a normal thing.”

“It’s ridiculous there is still a stigma. Half the population experiences this and it’s a completely normal thing that women experience for 40 plus years of their lives,” says Brogan.

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Hannah, Sam and Brogan. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

Bleedin’ Saor also runs a social media campaign that invites people to leave their period stories, ask questions and banish the embarrassment.

“We want people to be able to celebrate their period, which is what we’re doing with our Period Blether project – its’ getting people to talk about it. A lot of people already have shared stories on our website,” says Brogan.

Periods are natural. Unavoidable. Uncomfortable. In a lifetime, a woman will endure around 450 periods and will lose about 12 teaspoons of blood during each cycle. A woman can find her periods to be painful and inconvenient; they needn’t be shameful and costly too.

The Scottish Government took a significant step in the long road to gender equality last year by pledging £5 million towards free sanitary products in all schools, colleges and universities. However, there is still work to be done to ensure that period poverty becomes a thing of the past.

Part of doing so, is opening up honest discussions about periods to all genders. By encouraging it to be universally viewed as a natural, taboo-less fact of life, it will hopefully allow products to be easily accessible and readily available.

“The biggest thing is that we want to raise awareness of it we want people to be comfortable enough to have that conversation” says Brogan.

Hannah adds, “It’s astounding that period poverty still exists in 2019. We have learnt so much since joining the project. We didn’t realise how big it was and that 1 in 5 girls in Scotland are not able to have access to products and therefore missing out in school and their friends by not having access to everything that they need.”

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Sam working on designs. (Photo credit: Bleedin’ Saor)

They hope that, with the new and improved sanitary stations, people will make full use of the free products.

“We don’t want you to just take one product as you need it, take enough to last you your whole period,” says Brogan.

The team say that the university has been greatly supportive of them. University leaders have supported the student’s designs and upcoming installations of the dispensary stations and have provided funding for a trip to Uganda this summer in which the students will observe the social aspects of periods and the design of reusable products.

Napier University has also allowed Bleedin’ Saor to host three across-campus Bloody Big Brunches on March 6th. The team will soon begin fundraising for the event which will welcome people to come together to chat all things period over everyone’s favourite mid-morning meal.

Whatever campus, whatever gender – Bleedin’ Saor is an organisation everyone should get behind.

You can support Bleedin Saor by following their Instagram @bleedinsaor and leaving feedback on the temporary sanitary stations from the 4th February onwards.

Foodbank usage set to rise as Universal Credit rolls out in Edinburgh

Foodbanks in Edinburgh have raised concerns over the controversial roll out of Universal Credit as over 10,000 local tenants are set to be moved to the new system.

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Foodbanks prepare for the incoming rush of service users

The Trussel Trust, who funds a network of foodbanks, have recorded an increase by nearly a fifth of all users in areas where universal credit has recently been rolled out across the country.

Despite the Scottish Conservatives maintaining a positive attitude towards the introduction of Universal Credit, December is predicted to be one of the busiest months on record for local foodbanks.

What is universal credit?

Universal Credit is a combined payment of six different kinds of benefits;

  • Working tax credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Income support
  • Housing benefit
  • Income based job seekers allowance
  • Income related employment and support allowance

Why is it now a problem?

Since the roll out of this new benefit system, people have had to wait up to five weeks for their first payment.

Consequently, this has left families unable to pay for basic living costs and leading them to fall further down the poverty line.

Despite the government claiming there will be funds in place to support the roll out, recent evidence that more people are falling into poverty has triggered several MP’s to call for it to be paused.

Bethany Biggar, operations manager at Edinburgh North West Foodbank, claims all foodbanks in the local area are prepared for the worst.

‘We are expecting to see an increase in both young people and families since the Trussel Trust have reported an 18% rise in usage around the country.’

‘As of yet, since the roll out only began on the 28th here, I couldn’t comment on a rise but we are certainly hoping for the best and prepared for the worst.’

With Christmas time known to be a difficult time for those living in poverty, many will claim the roll out is poorly timed and an unnecessary strain on already struggling families.

 

Foodbank usage rise in Scotland

Food bank usage has increased in Scotland (credit: Zep19/Flickr)

Food bank usage has increased in Scotland (Photo courtesy of Zep19/Flickr)

The number of Scots using food banks has risen by 17% compared to last year, according to figures released by the Trussell Trust.

Trussell Trust said that on average, people require 1.7 referrals, which suggests that 35,000 people needed the help of food banks between April and September of this year.

Spokesperson for the Trust Lucy Keen said: “We’re seeing an increase in people coming of about 17% across Scotland, and what we find is that benefit delays and low income especially in this six month period compared to last year are particularly high this year.

“Our food banks are geared up for it to be very busy indeed, so it’s the busiest it’s ever been in Scotland.”

It also revealed that food banks gave out three-day emergency food supplies 60,458 times in the same period, a rise of 17% compared to last year.

Delays in benefits payments was the most common reason given for financial hardship, which almost 29% of users citing this as why they were using food banks. This figure remained the same from last year.

Referrals due to benefit changes dropped from 18% to 16%, while those who were referred due to low income rose from 18% to 21%.

Speaking about the figures as a whole, Trussell Trust CEO David McAuley said: “We are investing in additional services at food banks that help people to break out of crisis faster, and we’re seeing really positive results from this.

“In one food bank, after two months, over 90 percent of clients receiving help from their debt and money advice service had either resolved their issues or were close to having done so. But responsibility for helping people out of crisis must not rest with the voluntary sector alone, which is why we also need to see more high-level policy changes that help the poorest and reduce the number of people needing food banks in future.

“We’re seeking to engage politicians across parties in better understanding the reality of hunger and its causes. We want to see hunger and poverty eradicated in the UK, and I’d like to be reporting a massive drop in food bank usage this time next year.”

Listen to Angus Duncan’s report for Radio ENRG on the food bank figures:

 

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