The Lib Dems lost almost £150,000 following the recent election. That’s a shocking figure any day but in light of the budgetary cuts which have already been announced and the even deeper cuts which have been forecast, that sort of money is going to be increasingly crucial to all sorts of organisations and charities who have ever increasingly large numbers needing to use them. Homelessness in Oxford is just one very clear example of this: it’s already a huge problem, and with a combination of services being cut and new businesses coming to Oxford demanding new employees, the problems going to be exacerbated further still.
There’s a wide range of charities and organisations in Oxford attempting to deal with this issue, so it might seem all too obvious to ask, why form another one? Dignity Drive is dealing with a very small, but very potent, issue facing homeless and vulnerably housed people in Oxford and the surrounding areas: menstruation. That’s probably not a word that you see in print all that often, and that’s exactly the problem: menstruation has such a taboo surrounding periods that we just don’t think about this monthly issue which faces at least half of those accessing homelessness services. That’s where Dignity Drive comes in – we’re seeking both to enable access to safe and hygienic sanitary wear and to attempt to break down this antiquated stigma, one sparkly tampon brooch at a time.
Many people exclusively associate Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) with wearing tampons for too long. Unfortunately that’s not the case. It can also be caught from using leaves, moss or other unsterile products as emergency sanitary wear. However, such products are not solely used in an emergency for many of those who do not have sufficient disposable income just to be able to pop to the shop and pick up their product of choice: it’s a necessity. On average, someone will use 10,000 products throughout their life: when a box of Tampax in Boots costs £2.99 for 18, that’s £1661.11 across a lifetime. That’s a shocking amount to spend on an essential for anyone, let alone for those whose benefits have been cut or who are forced to beg in order to eke out an existence. Of course, this cost can be reduced dramatically through the use of reusable sanitary products, such as menstrual cups, but the up-front cost associated with many such products forces many into a cycle of dependency upon both financially and economically unviable products.
I’m not trying to suggest that anyone has 1.5k hanging around like the Lib Dems, but in this case, every little helps: next time you go shopping, pick up an extra pack of tampons or towels from the ‘female hygiene’ aisle which is hidden away in the far corner of Tesco’s and buy them with pride: don’t hide them under the grapes in your basket as if menstruation is something to be ashamed of and hidden away. Instead, start seeing it as what it really is: an essential (albeit sometimes somewhat inconvenient) fact of life, without which, all those politicians making it increasingly difficult for many to feed, clothe and home their families wouldn’t be around.