The Year 9 public speaking competition was a brilliant multi-media display, with audience members divided across classrooms and Teams. Yet each speech made its mark, and most impressive of all was the variety and depth of topics: from examining the flaws in our government, the importance of breakfast, cosmetics testing, gender inequality, normalised racism, Austen adaptations and why Friends should be removed from Netflix…
The winner, with her hard-hitting speech on menstruation and period poverty, was Mariella (9K).
‘Mariella's delivery was extremely strong and her argument well-developed. She immediately drew me in by using a personal anecdote as the foundation of her speech then quickly went on to build a solid, persuasive argument backed by good research. Well done!’
Mariella’s winning speech
Today, I am going to talk about why I think period products should be free in public toilets.
There are so many issues surrounding periods; besides the nearly 40 years of suffering, we also have to put up with the cost of products, and some people have to deal with period poverty. Last week I sat on the bus in the cold and listened to the radio. I listened as the news presenter read out the headline: ‘Scotland has announced that they will be the first country to make sanitary products free’. I listened as the male bus driver abruptly switched off the radio in disgust. This confused me as half the people on that bus were girls.
This brings me on to my first point: 26% of the population experience periods. That doesn’t sound like a lot but that is nearly 2 billion people; 10% of those people can’t afford period products. Lucky for all of the people in this room, we have access to period products, whether that’s from the health centre, a parent/guardian – or from the box in my desk – we all have access to some type of sanitary product.
To all the people in the room who either don’t get periods or haven’t before – I’m sure the people in here who do get them can confirm that even with sanitary products it’s not exactly pleasant. Imagine having to miss school every month because you can’t afford the products you need or, even worse, having to DIY your own. Imagine having to use toilet roll or a sock to protect yourself. Imagine having to bleed through your clothes because you can’t afford to use pads or tampons.
We cannot get rid of the fact that talking about periods, especially with adults or men, can be quite uncomfortable – so putting tampons and pads in public toilets could eliminate the embarrassment of having to ask a teacher or school nurse, or having to get the expensive bad quality ones from a dispenser. Periods can be really expensive, like REALLY expensive; the average menstruating person will get through a box of tampons or pads every month. On average a box of tampons/pads will be around £3. So that’s £3 per month, 12 months per year, 38 years... this totals nearly £1500 plus all the other expenses; that is in total around £5,000 plus approximately 2,280 days of utter misery. £5,000 pounds is a lot of money. £5,000 could buy you 6 pure bred golden retrievers, 5 iPhone 12s or 20,000 rolls of toilet roll. I don’t know about everyone else here but I’d much rather have the dogs than the 2,280 days of pain and suffering, but anyway we have no choice we have to deal with it, but the least we can do is provide the products we need.
You wouldn’t turn up to a public toilet and find that there is no toilet paper. If all of a sudden toilet paper wasn’t provided in public toilets there would be an outrage. We don’t have to bring our own toilet paper everywhere we go so why should we have to bring pads or tampons?
A few days ago, Scotland announced that they would be making period products free. The lawmaker Monica Lennon said: ‘Menstruation is normal. Free universal access to tampons, pads and reusable options should be normal, too.’ They are yet to work out how people will claim the free period products, but this is a step in the right direction.
Scientists believe that cramps can be as painful as a heart attack, so the next time you are trying not to cry because the hours of painful cramps you have had that day are making you want to curl up in a ball in bed, think about how we have to feel bloated, feel irritable, deal with breakouts, hot flushes, headaches, bad hair days, cramps, aches and pains, indigestion, nausea and even more and not only pay for the products, medicine and mountains of food we can demolish in minutes but are also expected to not say a word and get on with it. Is that really fair? Why should young girls have to stay quiet when they don’t have access to the necessities? And why are periods still a taboo subject when over a quarter of the population experience them?