The Story So Far...
In late 2016, Tina Leslie founded Freedom4Girls. The concept grew from a project that Tina had been working on in Kenya for around a year, with the help of a charity called Maji Safi projects. The project involved setting up sewing workshops with local women, making washable reusable sanitary pads. These pads were then delivered alongside menstrual and reproductive education, to schools in semi-rural areas in and around coast Mombasa.
In March 2017, Tina was approached by a colleague who worked in a Leeds school, asking for help with girls who were missing school as they did not have access to affordable menstrual protection. Shocked by how widespread problem of period poverty is in both the UK and other countries, Tina went on to deliver a number of media interviews, helping to bring the issue into the spotlight. Over the coming months, various media reports demonstrated the extent of period poverty in UK schools: many young women and girls sadly miss school and extra-curricular activities every month because they cannot afford menstual products and feel forced to stay at home.
By working with local schools, supermarkets and national charities such as Fareshare, Freedom4Girls set up donation stations across Leeds, to provide many more women and girls with the products they need to enjoy a normal life, regardless of being on their periods!
In the UK we are currently supplying up to 30 schools, primarily in West Yorkshire, all of whom have identified a need for support around distribution of sanitary products. One of the reasons that working with schools is so important to us, has been the feedback we’ve received from teachers- we’re aware that a number of teachers are supplying their female students with menstrual products. In addition to supplying menstrual products to schools, we work alongside local food banks, FairShare (who distribute surplus food to those in need), and a range of organisations that support vulnerable groups, such as women refugees, charities that work with homeless women and women in prison. The issue of period poverty has a significant impact on women and girls from all walks of life; we therefore work with a large number of community groups that host ‘Donation Stations’ or accept donations of sanitary products so that their female service users and staff have access when needed.
In the UK we now deliver 100’s of pads each week to schools, community groups, refugees and women's agencies. We also have donation station posters at various locations across Leeds, to support people who want to get involved by donating surplus sanitary products.
Over the coming months and years, we aim to significantly widen our remit and tackle period poverty holistically, by campaigning to end period poverty, commissioning and undertaking research on the economic, social and environmental impacts of period poverty in the UK and worldwide, and effectively communicating results of this research to the public. A major step in achieving these goals was achieved in March 2018, when Freedom4Girls were granted charity status in the UK; this will aid in our ability to develop and gain sustainable sources of funding to support our objective to become leaders in the fight against period poverty!