The Red Box Project is a nationwide, community initiative that works through schools to help fight period poverty.
Red Box Project was first established in March 2017 by Liesl Rose, Jo Willoughby and Anna Miles. In less than 2 years, the project has seen a huge uptake and there are currently over 100 individual local Red Box Projects, maintaining and supporting in excess of 750 red boxes in schools and youth groups across the UK.
Red Box Project Isle of Man hopes to boost those numbers considerably; there are 40 primary and secondary schools on island and The Red Box Project wants to support as many that would like to be involved.
‘We want to support our young people and ensure that none of them have to miss out on their education because of a lack of access to period products’
How does the project work?
The project works on a practical level, by placing an actual red box within a school which is stocked with pads of various absorbancies and tampons, as well as clean underwear, tights, wipes and paper bags.
Any student who needs to, can come to the trusted member of staff with whom the box is kept – perhaps the school nurse or receptionist – and take whatever they need to get through their period; and in to the next one.
In order to supply the boxes and their contents, we ask the public to make donations.
We have a growing number of donation points already across the Island and we are always keen for more! Just about anywhere could be a donation point – if you have a space for a box/container and to display a poster, that’s pretty much all you need!
Most of our donation points at the moment are publicly accessible – though we hope to gain the support of local businesses based in offices etc where perhaps their staff can have a collection point in a communal area etc.
While providing practical help in terms of sanitary products is at the core of the Red Box Project, another huge part is opening up conversation around periods and working towards breaking down the stigma that very much surrounds what is a natural bodily process that many of us experience on a regular basis.
Plan International UK surveyed a weighted, representative group of 1004 girls and young women aged 14-21 in August 2017. The results of that study are astounding.
- 1 in 10 had been unable to afford sanitary protection.
- 1 in 7 had struggled to afford it.
- 49% had missed at least one day of school because of their period.
- 42% – two fifths of those who took part in the survey – have had to rely on toilet paper at some point to manage their period because they have struggled to afford sanitary products.
Worryingly, more than a quarter (27%) said they had used a sanitary product for longer than its intended use because they could not afford a fresh one. Out of those who have overused a product, 48% said they thought it had impacted their health including almost a third saying they experienced thrush, and 1 in 5 saying they believed they contracted a UTI.
The findings surrounding the stigma are just as hard to read:
- Nearly half (48%) of the girls aged 14-21 in the UK are embarrassed by their periods.
- 1 in 7 admitted they did not know what was happening when they started their period and more than a quarter (26%) reported they didn’t know what to do when they started their period.
- Only 1 in 5 said they felt comfortable discussing their period with their teacher.
- A massive 71% reported feeling embarrassed purchasing period products.
Red Box Project Isle of Man is coordinated by Rebecca Gelling, Robyn Tomkinson and Ali Campbell, supported by a growing team of volunteers across the Island who are passionate about periods and ensuring none of the students on the Island are missing out on their education because of lack of access to sanitary protection, for whatever reason.
To find out more about Red Box Project Isle of Man, you can find them on Facebook here.