The Red Box Project: Let’s #EndPeriodPoverty in Southampton

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Hi everyone, I’m Charlotte, your Community and Volunteering Officer. I have been working with the External Engagement Zone to bring you another community project which you can get involved with! This time we are looking at tackling the problem of period poverty in Southampton with a multi-campus Red Box Project throughout the whole of March to coincide with Women’s Month.

What is period poverty?

‘Period poverty’ is a term which refers to a lack of access to essential sanitary products due to financial constraints. Sanitary products such as tampons are sold at inflated prices with an additional ‘tampon tax’ due to their status as an apparently ‘luxury item’.

Throughout their lifetime, a woman is estimated to spend more than £18,000 on menstrual products, which averages out at £13 every month. Consequently, for young girls whose family live on the poverty line, that is an expense they can arguably not afford. For many families, it might be a choice between sanitary products or a hot meal. In fact, according to Plan International UK, 1 in 10 girls simply can’t afford to buy menstrual products, whilst 40% of girls in the UK have had to use toilet roll as an alternative because they couldn’t afford anything else.

As well as having a profound impact on their confidence and dignity, period poverty in young girls also has an adverse effect on their education. Over 137,700 girls in the UK have missed school due to period poverty, whilst 68% of girls reported that they felt less able to pay attention in school whilst menstruating. If a girl was to miss school every time they had their period, they would be 145 days behind their male classmates. Whilst this may seem like a radical statistic, this is the reality that countless young people face when they are faced with period poverty. It is a tangible and harmful barrier to their education which risks hundreds and thousands of girls, through no fault of their own, becoming permanently disadvantaged in the future due to their deprivation of education. The Red Box Project aims to change that.

What is The Red Box Project?

The Red Box Project is a community-based initiative which aims to tackle the problem of period poverty young people face by providing red boxes filled with free sanitary items to local schools. It started off in Portsmouth but since then it has become a nationwide project, with areas all over the UK setting up their own Red Boxes and campaigning for donations and volunteers to provide young people with essential sanitary replies.

How is SUSU getting involved?

In commemoration of Women’s Month this March, I have worked with the External Engagement Zone to organise SUSU’s very own Red Box Project, where students have the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of young people in Southampton who deal with period poverty.

There are three collection points:

  • Highfield Campus, Building 42 main reception
  • Avenue Campus SUSU reception
  • Winchester School of Art, SUSU reception in WSA Café

Any sanitary items you donate will be distributed for free at local schools and other organisations.

In Winchester specifically, most of the donations will be going to Trinity, their core charity of the year. Trinity focuses on helping homeless people in and around Winchester, so these sanitary products will help homeless women have their period in comfort and dignity.

These collection points will remain on their respective campus between the 04 and 28 March, which means that you have all month to get your donations in!

What can I donate?

We are accepting the following items as donations:

  • Panty liners
  • Sanitary towels
  • Tampons
  • Menstrual cups
  • Underwear
  • Tights

How else can I help?

As well as donating, you can raise awareness of the initiative on social media by sharing this blog post, the Facebook event and other related posts to raise the profile of the event and inspire students to donate!

We are also looking for students in the Highfield, Avenue and WSA area to volunteer to help with collection. As well as being for a good cause, volunteering to help with collections will earn you a ‘Serving Community’ STRIVE e-Badge.

To volunteer or find out any more information, please contact me at cc8g16@soton.ac.uk