The ridiculous "tampon tax" looks set to be all-but scrapped tonight, after Downing Street confirmed it won't vote against MP Paula Sheriff's amendment to the Finance Bill calling for VAT to be removed from sanitary products. Earlier this week chancellor George Osborne declared that the European Commission was "on the verge" of granting permission for the Treasury to reduce VAT on sanitary products to zero.
This is good news for most menstruating women but for those who are homeless it will make little difference. Even the price cut won't make sanitary products affordable for them.
One social enterprise is making it their mission to provide proper sanitary products for the growing numbers of women sleeping rough in the U.K.
Binti, which was founded by Manjit Gill, aims to "promote menstrual dignity" for those women, many of whom have resorted to using newspapers, old socks and handkerchiefs in place of proper sanitary products.
"We can't imagine ourselves being without protection, life is difficult enough," Gill told Metro.co.uk. "If you're homeless if you're on your period on top of that… It's unfathomable to be in that state. When you start to think about it you wonder how the homeless or the refugees get by? We know that they use rags and paper when there is no access."
Gill and her team are working with homeless women, as well as those taking refuge in domestic violence shelters, handing out free or affordable tampons and sanitary towels, as well as other donated hygiene products.
The project began in London and is due to be rolled out in Leeds, Slough, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cardiff and Brighton in the coming weeks.
As a British Indian, Gill's primary focus is to provide basic hygiene for women in developing countries. Over 70 percent of women in India don't have access to sanitary products or even toilets at home.
"The debate around menstruation shame — particularly at home in the U.K. — is interesting," she said. "We hear all sorts, from 'No, periods are not an issue', to complete denial that they cause any embarrassment. It's almost like they don't exist and we really don't want to come across as the weaker sex — especially with the period policy topic that hit the news last week. We think it's wonderful to get it into the mainstream. If we talk about it here it makes our work a lot easier in the developing nations as they follow trends."
The long-term plan for Binti is to hold collections nationwide and encourage people to donate a small amount every month to help empower girls and women across the world. In India and Eastern Africa £5 pays for an annual supply of sanitary towels for one girl, £10 provides tools for a Binti educational programme for a class of 15 and £50 pays one woman's salary for an entire year.
You can donate and find out more about Binti here.
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