Plaid Cymru has today welcomed the announcement that Rhondda Cynon Taf council will begin introducing free sanitary products in the county borough’s secondary schools following the council cabinet approving all of the recommendations outlined in a report by the Children and Young People's Working Group Chaired by Plaid Cymru Councillor Shelley Rees-Owen regarding sanitary product provision in Rhondda Cynon Taf’s schools. The report was the direct result of a campaign led by Plaid Cymru and Rhondda Cynon Taf councillor Elyn Stephens’s campaign to eradicate period poverty and ensure free universal sanitary product provision in schools.
The Welsh Government had previously announcned over a million pounds worth of funding for tackling period poverty following Plaid Cymru’s campaigning.
Period Poverty is estimated to effect over 10% of girls in the UK, who find themselves unable to afford sanitary products. This can have an impact on their education, with some missing school as a result. It also a problem for women on low incomes, who may have to prioritise other products such as food, or rely on food banks to obtain sanitary products, and thus the Welsh Government funding is designed to help local authorities also address the issue.
Speaking after the result today Rhondda Cynon Taf Councillor Elyn Stephens said:
“I am delighted the cabinet has approved the report on Sanitary Provision today. When I first brought the issue to the council chamber, I don’t think members fully appreciated the depth and severity of the issue.
I want to pay tribute to the young girls who shared their stories and concerns to the working group. They have been invaluable, not only in creating a shift in attitude towards the taboo of discussing periods but by actively engaging in Local Government.
The purpose of the report has three elements, to eradicate period poverty, to educate all pupils and teachers on periods and most importantly to change the way we think about sanitary products. As a point of equality, we should be as comfortable talking about providing sanitary products as we do toilet paper. I am pleased that the Welsh Government has given some funding to support our recommendations but the funding is insufficient to finance the policy in its entirety.
To ensure that the recommendations are implemented in full they need to be properly budgeted for every year and not be at the mercy of underspend grants. I look forward with interest to see the positive changes take effect across Rhondda Cynon Taf and hope that all councils in Wales will follow suit.
This has always been an equalities issue and not specifically about period poverty even though this is an important consequence. This is about ensuring we tackle issues that may not have been raised before because it hasn’t been seen as an issue by previous generations of councillors. This is exactly why we need more diversity in politics so we can discuss and solve problems that may not have been considered important to others.”
Plaid Cymru’s equalities spokesperson Siân Gwenllian said:
“This is a victory for the campaign led by our strong team of councillors in Rhondda Cynon Taf, led by Elyn Stephens. They’ve been consistently campaigning for this since 2017, and have now successfully managed to get the authority to commit to providing free sanitary products in schools throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf – as well as moving the Welsh Government into tackling this issue and to provide extra funding for councils throughout Wales.”