Glasgow puts young people in the driving seat

Last week, Glasgow hosted perhaps the most exciting conference this year. The event, organised by S3 pupils from St Paul’s RC High School, brought together 150 student representatives from all Glasgow secondary schools to share best practice in the city-wide fight against period poverty.

Glasgow City Council has championed the Scottish Government initiative to provide free period products from the beginning. They were one of the first Local Authorities to distribute Hey Girls products – running a pilot in four schools (including St Paul’s) last summer term – and they are now the first council to bring together schools for a conference of this kind, putting pupils in the driving seat.

At St Paul’s, pupils have been involved in the initiative from the start – deciding where and how students could access free products. Sanitary pads are freely available in all female, disabled, and gender-neutral toilet cubicles, with extras in PE changing rooms and pastoral care. Pupils explained that it was important young people could collect them in private and without having to ask a teacher. Students were also clear that more and better education around periods was needed at secondary level to reduce the stigma surrounding periods, and encourage people to take products if they needed them.

A full half the morning was dedicated to how education can reduce stigma and increase the uptake of free products. Pupils made it clear that an assembly and a poster to inform female pupils about what is happening was not enough. Earlier this term, S3 students received training to teach periods to S1 classes, and on Monday they delivered education activities to a packed assembly hall. Using the Hey Girls My Period resources that they helped to design and test, pupils led a carousel of activities including Period Bingo, True or False, and an opportunity to explore menstrual cups and cloth pads.

At Hey Girls, we’ve been working closely with schools across Scotland to help them distribute plastic-free period products with dignity, and provide empowering education. We know how hard it can be for staff to find time to dedicate to this initiative, but we also know how much difference it can make when they do. There are some amazing case studies of schools making period product distribution innovative and fun, with great outcomes for pupils and staff. It was amazing to be part of this conference to share ideas and support the great work going on across Glasgow to break down taboos around periods.