At the time, Zoe was so underweight that her periods were often irregular. This sounds bleakly fortuitous, but that irregularity meant that she "wouldn't have one for ages" and it would then "come really unexpectedly and be so painful. It would make me feel really weak. I'd be shaking." She visibly recoils as she's talking. "I've put all this to the back my mind because it was so embarrassing and so horrible," she says. Listening to her, the idea of experiencing those hot, disabling cramps while wandering the streets because you're scared of staying in one place makes me wince.Couldn't she have asked a shelter for some supplies? No, she says, because she had no idea they'd give them out. Nor did she have implicit trust in certain shelters letting her in at all. "People used to come up to me and say, 'There's this really great place you can go and they'll save you,' but sometimes you couldn't trust them," she says. "It's not always as simple as people think. These places don't always let you in." Thankfully, Zoe was eventually housed in a hostel and has been there for six months.
The idea of experiencing those hot, disabling cramps while wandering the streets because you're scared of staying in one place makes me wince.
Access to provisions is one thing, but if you're on the streets, privacy becomes a distant memory, too. Washing in public toilets, as another woman at Bethany House told me, becomes the norm. However, popping to the bathroom to do that can be tricky when you need to find somewhere busy enough not to be noticed.It seems strange that over 80 years have passed since Dr. Earle Haas patented the first modern tampon, but women who have lost their way are still being forced to stuff tissue down their knickers every month.If menstrual care was classed as healthcare, sanitary ware would be free and available on prescription for all. For every woman who menstruates, tampons and towels are as essential toilet paper—unless you want to walk around covered in your own viscera, you can't live without it.
We give out condoms for free for good reason—safe sex and preventing against the transmission of STIs is an absolute imperative—but why can't we do the same for pads and tampons?