Period poverty: Rise in free sanitary products needed in lockdown
The number of women and girls facing period poverty has risen sharply during the coronavirus lockdown, according to charities working to help them.
Women unable to afford or access sanitary products have resorted to using items including newspaper, pillow cases, or tea towels.
One charity said the number of packs it gave out had risen about five-fold.
Poverty left some struggling to afford products and schools and community centres that distribute them have shut.
The government said its scheme launched in January to give out free period products in schools was still in operation.
National charity Bloody Good Period said it usually distributed 5,000 packs a month but had handed more than 23,000 in the three months since lockdown began in England on 23 March.
Leeds-based Freedom4Girls said it had seen an even larger five-fold increase in the number of free sanitary products it supplied in and around the city.
Tina Leslie, who runs the charity, said it normally delivered about 500 packs of pads, tampons and liners a month. But since the start of lockdown it had distributed more than 7,500 packs.
"If you can't manage your periods your emotional mental health is just plummeting," she said.
"You feel awful, you feel dirty - you just need to have that protection so you can go about your daily life.
"Corona has exacerbated the issue over lockdown. Community centres weren't open, schools were closed."
She said the charity had received requests from schools for products because they had "run out".
"The level of deprivation and poverty and people not able to afford products has been growing slowly but this has just exacerbated the issue and I don't think it's going to get better any time soon."
Ajmal Said, 14, who lives in Leeds, said she and her friends were normally given sanitary products by the school nurse, but "it's hard to access products when you're not at school".
"Getting your period isn't a choice, so it's not really fair we have to pay this amount of money to get something we need and if we don't have that money we can't get it," she said.
Alison Gordon said she had set up a "free shop" in her garden on the Hawksworth estate in Leeds during lockdown, providing clothes, toys and period products to local families.
"It's been really difficult getting hold of these kind of things," she said.
"We have people who really struggle because the food banks aren't as accessible.
"We have a woman up the road using nappies, toilet paper, newspaper - anything she can get her hands on.
"If you can't afford your food, your priority is not going to be getting a period product, it's feeding yourself and your children.
"So if you don't have the money for food you're not going to have the money to look after yourself in your period."
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women's Equality Party and a candidate in the election for Mayor of London - delayed until next year - said the pandemic had highlighted the issue of period poverty.
"You've got a situation where something that was starting to be recognised, gradually kind of being under control, has now taken several steps back," she said.
The Department for Education said: "We introduced the period product scheme so that students are able to access to these products when they need them at school or college.
"The scheme remains in operation and schools and colleges are still able to order a range of period products through the online portal and distribute them to students, whether they are learning from home or at school or college."