Claire Hailwood reflects on how the Period Parade flagged up the injustice suffered by many young people.


Hang out with children, even of a young age, and you’ll know that they have an acute sense of justice and what they perceive to be right and wrong. From the size of a cake slice (in comparison to others) to who said what that was wrong to whom. Justice and its pursuit are hard wired in to us.

We’re made in the image of God who loves justice, who speaks against justice throughout the bible and calls us into a life pursuing the likeness in which we are created.

I wonder how many of us pursue justice with the same passion as we have got older (beyond ‘just’ the size of a cake slice) or how much has diminished with age and busyness?

So, as I hear stories repeated across the UK, of girls skipping school because of a lack of access to period products, it hits that part of me  that’s wired for justice.

Research shows that a third of girls miss school because of a lack of understanding or adequate access to period products. Some even report that it’s easier to get a free condom than a tampon in school.

But it runs deeper than that – it’s not just a lack of access in schools that’s problematic but a fear of bleeding through to school uniform which may then be visible (and highlighted) to others, and the shame attached to that.

And these fears are not unfounded.

A triathlete’s response

Recent pictures have emerged online of a female triathlete who had experienced a slight leak while using a tampon that was visible in her running shorts. Comments online deemed these pictures as ‘unflattering’ with the triathlete’s response hailed as ‘perfect’ for refusing to be shamed and highlighting the reality for female athletes.

Pictures of bruised and bleeding athletes in other contexts are normal but the comments attached to this picture attempted to induce shame simply because of the connection to periods, which are the norm for 50% of the world’s population for most of their lives.

To my shame, I didn’t know that world period day existed (May 28th). Nor did I know about the accompanying ’Period Parade’, but I celebrate and applaud its inception and existence especially with their slogan, encouraging people to attend dressed up in some period related costume in order to ‘shift the shame’. There’s a defiance in that which takes back, redeems shame wrongly felt and placed by and on women, especially teenagers, and replaced with a confident pursuit of justice.

As I’ve learned about this I’ve been struck by the recurrent use of the word ‘shame – a powerful, debilitating feeling. When guilt says, ‘I’ve done something wrong’, shame says ‘I am wrong’. It’s deep rooted, powerful. And when attached to something that is normal, a part of how almost every female body is designed to work, it becomes ‘I, as a female, am wrong’. What is this doing to the already pressurized and battered confidence of teenage girls?

As a female and a parent to two teenage girls, I know the reality of trying to find what period products work best for each individual. It can be awkward, time consuming and costly. I am in a privileged position in that I can try and create opportunities for my daughters to do the same, but that’s not true for too many young people. What we’ve discovered is that while you can get cheaper period products, the old adage is true, that you get what you pay for and the cheaper items are not generally as effective or trustworthy. And if that’s your only choice then what option do you have but to miss school if you’re likely to have leaks, especially if asking to leave to use the toilet is refused or something you consider embarrassing?

So what do we do? Here are three places I’m starting…

1. Talk about it with our children

I’m delighted that I am raising boys and girls who are comfortable talking about periods, products, cramps and bleeding without embarrassment. Parents, carers – we need to get over our own embarrassment (where that exists) and make it a normal part of conversation.

Let’s talk about shame in this area and any others. Isaiah 61 promises us that in God is to be found a double portion in place of shame, reminding us that shame is not of God, not His words over us – let’s keep that narrative rooted in the word of God loud in our homes – we have the power to take down shame.

2. Ask in school

If you have children in primary or high school why not ask what the school policy and provision is? Do they have good quality period products available, free for any girl who nees them? If not, maybe there’s a small campaign to start. In England, there is a government scheme that should provide free access to all schools, but maybe that’s not adequate or being accessed. We won’t know unless we ask!

Food banks and shelters around the UK are always looking for donations of period products – no girl in the UK today should have to go without this basic provision. We can all do something about it.

3. Celebrate and acknowledge

Celebrate being female. Celebrate the amazing things that the female body can do. Celebrate the design that is heavenly.

Shame has no place for a child of God. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) and this includes, of course any shame associated with periods.

Acknowledge the pain, inconvenience, the reality that period cramps are not fun and are real.

Don’t brush away or diminish either aspect.

The more we can do in our homes, the more confidence our children will develop and truth that will run deeper.