When speaking speaking with Eleanor Wilson, Olivia McHugh and Natalie Moffat of the student society, GU Red Alert, one thing is abundantly clear – this is not about them. Cloaked in the vibrant West End of Glasgow, the very idea of people struggling for basic hygiene products among the grandeur of the film-esque setting of the University seems an entirely far away idea.
At their level, they have said that they are not aware of any committee members that have faced the plight of period poverty, although they acknowledge that people may be suffering in silence. That comes with the territory of the ever present stigma that is laden with this issue.
At present, their society is apart of the undercurrent of a greater wave that is causing ripples in the Scottish political landscape that is trying to tackle period poverty. This society and this movement is happening because for too long this issue has been ignored.
When that clicks, you’re just outraged at the whole system because you’ve been so used to that being the only option and that flips you over to being like ‘that’s not good enough’.”
Eleanor Wilson, president of the GU Red Alert
These vulnerable women at the core of this, who cannot escape their periods no matter their financial situation – are unable to afford the necessary sanitary products that they need to remain safe and healthy during their period.
Established in May of 2015, Red Alert came about when Wilson discovered the London-based Homeless Period movement – a picture taken from the campaign adorns the cover of the Red Alert Facebook page – and her search for something similar in Scotland came up unsuccessful. On one hand, she was disappointed at the lack of activity, but it opened up an opportunity to create her own.
They had their AGM ran in the following September and garnered an overwhelming response – and now they are in their second year running.
The frustration that fuels their work is the fact that this is an issue that links to an inequality specific to poor women who are already struggling or unable to make ends meet. She says that she felt outraged that this issue was being ignored and that, for the many like her who are starting to recognise and bring light to this will hopefully turn their anger into action.
In their annual washbag appeal, they were able to collect a total ninety washbags that were then donated to the Simon Community, a charity that has a halfway house based in Govanhill, in the Southside of Glasgow.
After their generous donation, they have then since worked closely with them and inn specifically working with service manager JeanAnn Webster has been paramount in their progress as a society. She has been able to educate them on what they should include in the wash bags, so that they will be adequately equipped for the service user’s’ needs. In a time where austerity has had a profound impact and people are increasingly being treated as numbers in an ever debilitating system – societies like Red Alert are selflessly undertaking the type of work that without it, those most in need would again get lost in the ether.
More on the Big Red Taboo series:
#PeriodPoverty in the 21st Century by Katy Flynn
Why institutions should take on the burden of menstruation by Alisa Wylie