Dr Gill Main leads University research into period poverty

Dr Gill Main is leading research into 'period poverty', investigating the impact this issue has on attendance in education, and helping to combat this issue in city schools.

The University is partnering with Leeds City Council (LCC) to work with young people, schools and other settings to investigate period poverty – a lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints – and the impact this issue has on attendance in education.

Dr Main, Associate Professor of Education, is leading the University’s research. Her Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Future Research Leaders grant project entitled 'Fair Shares and Families', investigates links between child poverty and well-being, focusing specifically on how families across the income spectrum go about obtaining and sharing resources. 

The study reveals children aged 10-17 who are living in poverty are significantly more likely to be engaging in a range of economising activities, including going without basic necessities, such as sufficient food, and hiding their needs from parents and peers. This can lead to social exclusion. While period poverty was not specifically included in the research, it is likely to form one aspect of this type of economising.

Dr Main recently submitted her findings to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Professor Philip Alston, in advance of his visit to the UK.  

She said: “Poverty during childhood is associated with a host of negative outcomes for children, and for the adults that children become. One of the impacts on children is having to engage in economising activities, and experiencing social exclusion."

"Both poverty and menstruation are associated with stigma, which often results in feelings of shame, so the combination of the two is likely to be a particularly harmful experience for girls. Therefore, the attention Leeds City Council is paying to this issue strongly complements the findings from 'Fair Shares and Families', and provides a welcome opportunity to investigate the topic further and, hopefully, to contribute to making a real difference to the lives of girls in Leeds who are experiencing period poverty.”

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment, said: “It is a damming indictment of our society if girls are left in the position of not being able to afford sanitary protection, leading to them missing school or even meals. Child poverty is rising and we have a duty to mitigate its impact as much as possible. I would like to thank Carr Manor Community School and the University of Leeds for agreeing to work with us as we try and find a solution to what, quite frankly, should not be a problem in this city.”