Plaid Cymru welcomed the very first debate on periods and ‘period poverty’ in the Senedd yesterday.
The party recently ensured free sanitary product provisions in all schools with placements for learners aged 9 and above in Rhondda Cynon Taf – a move that led to the Welsh Government providing a grant of £1m to tackle period poverty.
Responding to the ‘period poverty’ debate in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Sian Gwenllian AM, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for equalities said,
“I think the fact that we’re discussing this issue in the Chamber starts us on the journey of breaking the taboo and challenging the taboo about menstruation and periods. When there are enough women in positions of power and where decisions are made, then issues that are important for women—women outside of this place, women in general—are discussed. I would like to refer to the work of councillor Elyn Stephens and the Plaid Cymru group on Rhondda Cynon Taf council for leading this work throughout Wales from the very beginning.”
Elyn Stephens was elected as a Plaid Cymru councillor in Ystrad in Rhondda Cynon Taf in May of last year and began the campaign to get sanitary products free in schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Despite obstacles from Labour councillors, Elyn’s campaign proved victorious and secured the distribution of free sanitary products in all schools in the county with placements for learners aged 9 and above.
Elyn herself had suffered period poverty, after being brought up with her two sisters by her mother, who was a single parent, who was dependent of disability benefit to support her family.
Rhondda Cynon Taf councillor Elyn Stephens said,
“We would face the choice of buying food, heating the house, buying clothes or sanitary products, and it was the latter of those that lost out every time.”
“I’m proud that Rhondda Cynon Taf is the first county to ensure free sanitary products for everyone in the country. A year ago I never would have imagined a discussion on periods in the Senedd but I’m glad that I’ve been able to play a part in ensuring this issue is brought to the attention of our Government and Wales as a whole.”
However Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Rhondda AM said that the £1m grant provided by the Welsh Government to tackle period poverty was ‘not enough’ and that ‘a coherent, long-term strategy that has been properly budgeted’ is needed.
Leanne Wood Plaid Cymru leader and AM for Rhondda said,
“I was pleased to see the £1 million grant provided by the Welsh Government which will offer some level of funding to alleviate the symptoms of period poverty. But it is not enough. If we are to be serious about tackling the issue of ‘period poverty’ then we must go further than a short term ‘band-aid’ solution.”
“The Welsh Government must put in place real measures to eradicate poverty in Wales – and that begins with the devolution of welfare administration. It must also implement a coherent, long-term strategy that has been properly budgeted which will include securing consistent universal provision of sanitary items throughout Wales.”
“Menstrual care is healthcare. Healthcare is a human right. For the sake of equality, sanitary products and access to comprehensive sex and relationship education must be accessible to everyone in Wales.”