Raina Roberts, the author of this piece, currently volunteers for Bloody Good Period and oversees all collections in London, coordinates operations between BGP and the drop-in centres they support, and manages its volunteer Driver’s Network.
Bloody Good Period (BGP) was founded in October 2016 by Gabby Edlin who, when volunteering at a local drop-in centre for asylum seekers, noticed that menstrual products such as pads and tampons were not being distributed. When she asked why that was, she was told that they only handed these items out in ‘emergencies’, she knew she had to do something about it. Anyone who’s ever had a period knows that:
a) every period is an emergency when you don’t have access to what you need
b) it’s really hard to ask someone for pads or tampons even in emergencies especially if you are expected to do it over and over again.
The asylum-seeking process in the UK is an arduous one which can go on for years. Before anyone can be given the title, and therefore benefits, of a refugee, they are asylum-seekers. As an asylum-seeker in the UK you receive £37.75 a week, are not allowed to claim or receive any additional benefits, are not allowed to work or even volunteer over a certain amount of hours, and are often placed in dire shared housing conditions. £37.75 is not enough to cover the basics for an adult and menstrual products are often far from being at the top of anyone’s list of necessities.
What started out as a quick whip around on social media to friends and family has become an ever growing organisation that supplies over 15 asylum-seeker drop-in centres in London and Leeds on a monthly basis, as well as centres around the UK and internationally on a ad-hoc basis. Bloody Good Period now has 150+ volunteers and has supplied well over 500,000 packs of pads and tampons to asylum-seeker drop-ins and those who need them. The main goal for BGP is to not have to exist and there are a few pillars we lean on in order to create a future where access to menstrual items is accepted in society as a basic human right.
1 – Normalising conversation around periods
“Smashing taboos” is not an expression commonly used by BGP because we believe that you don’t smash a taboo by talking about and naming the issue as taboo. You smash the taboo by talking about the thing itself – in this case it’s periods, blood, and vaginas. Half the population bleeds once a month – always have, and always will and there is really no need to beat around the bush about it. An underlying theme within BGP is humour – pretty obvious, given the name – and it is something very important to Gabby and fellow BGP volunteers. If talking about periods is too difficult how will we ever tackle issues like period poverty?
2 – Placing an emphasis on trust
Sustainability, in every sense of the word, is another very important aspect of BGP’s ethos. We want those we support to feel like they can trust us so it’s very important that we only take on new drop-in centres when we can provide the same items and quantities month on month. We also want the people we work with to know they are able to ask for the products that they want without fear of judgement. While we take our environmental impact seriously and are of course committed to lessening our waste, it’s more important to us that our clients have agency in their choice of menstrual products. We’re massive fans of organic products and menstrual cups and have taken actions to support small organic brands as well as running CupAware with The Cup Effect, a charity which aims to provide and educate those who wish to use menstrual cups. However, at the end of the day, our belief is that it’s not up to those fleeing persecution to save the planet: they have enough to deal with as it is.
3 – Political activism
Since its inception, BGP has been political; I mean, you just can’t be an intersectional feminist organisation tackling period poverty and refugee needs without being political, am I right? While BGP has and continues to grow exponentially, so has awareness around these issues. From reports of UK schoolgirls missing school due to a lack of access to products, to menstrual products being considered a luxury, to big brands leveraging off of the stigma they helped to create to sell their products, it’s safe to say we. are. fed. up. And you best believe we won’t stop until we’re done. We’ve participated in marches and protests, have attended and spoken at countless events, and even organised our own #BloodyLaundry installation outside of Parliament to call on them to raise the allowance for asylum-seekers. We’ve dipped our toes in political campaigning and, now that we are at a place where we can sustainably continue to support as well as grow our network of partnered drop-ins, we promise that 2019 will be the year we dive in.
Are we upset, confused, hurt by the way our bodies have been treated? Yes. Are we angry? Bloody YES. But we are more determined than ever to end this nonsensical dehumanisation of refugees, asylum-seekers, women, transgender and non-binary people, and anyone whose basic human rights have been ignored for too long.
So, you want to support, volunteer for and/or stay up-to-date with Bloody Good? Visit our website to learn about all the ways you can get involved. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and you can sign up to our newsletter from the website. There are always plenty of ways to get involved!