ABGC Campaign 8: The Red Box Project

For our eighth campaign, we wanted to do something different and collaborate with another project supplying sanitary products in their local community. We have partnered with The Red Box Project Stokey and a portion of the donations we collect will go to support their amazing efforts.

We asked Gemma Abbott & Elise Evans (the coordinators of this project in Stoke Newington) to tell us more about the work they’re doing, as well as how period poverty is affecting the lives of schoolgirls in the UK.

The Red Box Project Stokey is a community-based, not-for-profit scheme providing free sanitary products for any girl who may need them. We collect donations of sanitary products from members of the community and deliver them to local schools, where they are available to those who would otherwise go without.

The Red Box Project was started in Portsmouth in March 2017 and has since grown across the UK, with partnerships between 19 projects and 124 schools so far established, all striving to alleviate period poverty. We were so inspired by the work of the Red Box Project teams elsewhere in the UK that once we heard about it, we knew we needed to set up a Red Box Project in our community.

Hackney is one of the most impoverished boroughs in London with approximately 31% of children in secondary schools eligible for free school meals.*

Unsurprisingly (but seldom discussed until quite recently), the same poverty which results in families struggling to put food on the table also leaves girls unable to access sufficient sanitary protection to meet their needs. It is hard to imagine the anxiety and distress that they must go through each month, but discussions with local schools have made the effects all too clear: girls are missing school as a result of period poverty.

The project is a simple but effective scheme to provide young women in need – whether for financial or social reasons – with free menstrual protection. Every school that signs up to the free scheme receives a red box filled with sanitary products donated by the community to be kept by the School Nurse or other appropriate member of staff. Female pupils can access this box at any time and take from it what they need – providing them with the reassurance that they will be protected throughout their menstrual cycle – and the next, and the next.

We have had a brilliant response from our local community since setting up the project last month. Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form signed up immediately to receive a red box and drop-off points for donations have been set up in various local businesses and community hubs, such as the Old Fire Station community centre and the local library. Local enterprise FabLittleBag generously provided samples of their biodegradable disposal bags for the young women to try.

Excitingly, the project recently received the endorsement of the campaigner and founder of the #FreePeriods movement, Amika George, who said, “The work that the Red Box Project is doing is incredibly important in fighting and raising awareness of period poverty. It’s organisations such as these that give women hope and dignity. Having the support of FabLittleBag is brilliant, too, in helping to tackle the awkwardness of disposal. Period poverty is damaging on every level, and needs to stop. Until our government take action, it’s great to know that the women most in need are not being ignored.”

We are so thrilled to be part of the latest campaign of A Bloody Good Cause. We are always striving to raise awareness of the issue of period poverty and the work of the Red Box Project, and we hope that the donations we will receive from the campaign will significantly increase our ability to deliver red boxes to local schools. We set up first in our local secondary school but we are aiming to cover the whole of the borough, in conjunction with the Red Box Project Hackney (a scheme set up in Haggerston by a fellow volunteer, Franki). We strongly believe that the young women in Hackney deserve that we are ambitious, that we set our sights on having red boxes in every secondary and primary school in Hackney that wants one.

We are proud to be part of a movement that is already making a difference to young women across the UK but there is so much work still to do. Adequate protection during menstruation is a basic human right and it is appalling that schemes like the Red Box Project are even needed. But until the government steps in, we will be here, fighting to end period poverty.  Thank you to A Bloody Good Cause for the support! 

If you would like to find out more, please check out our Facebook page or email us at theredboxprojectstokey@gmail.com. You can also find us on Instagram (@theredboxproject_stokey) and Twitter (@RedBoxStokey). And, if you would like to support our project, you can:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2017 (see tab 8(b) of the local statistics for percentage of pupils eligible and claiming free school meals by borough, based on January 2017 census)

If you would like to donate sanitary products to the Red Box Project Stokey through our campaign, you can find out how to do so on our donations page.

Thanks for reading,

~ Sanya

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