This week we're honoured to formally introduce the wonderful women behind The Red Box Project for Brighton & Hove.
When we first came across this project we were so impressed to discover that it is lead and run by local volunteers. Emma & Chelle are so awesome!
Let's find out more about how they got involved & what's next for the fight against period poverty:
Where did you hear about The Red Box Project? How did you get involved with it?
Emma: I know Anna, one of the founders of RBP, so have followed the project closely from the beginning. It was one of those coincidences that feels like it was meant to be that Chelle had also contacted Anna about volunteering because Chelle and I had met a year or so before so we already knew of each other.
Chelle: I had heard about the project a while ago and couldn’t sign up as a volunteer originally. Towards the end of last year work was quiet and the project leapt out at me again. I have an 8 year daughter was starting to ask questions about periods so to work on a community project whilst empowering her seemed like a right fit.
How did you hear about period poverty as an issue?
Emma: I’d seen a couple of shocking news articles online and followed pages such as Bloody Good Period on Instagram and then Anna started posting about the Red Box Project which is when I became fully aware of how big an issue it really is.
Chelle: I had seen loads of articles in the news and am part of some feminist led facebook groups that often discussed the issue. I will admit to being a bit blind to it until finding the Red Box Project though, I have learnt so much.
What spurred you to become volunteers?
Chelle: I wanted to invest some of my spare time in supporting something with ground roots impact, the project was perfect as my daughter can get involved too!
Emma: I have a 13 year old daughter who I had as a teenager myself, there have been times when she was growing up where I’ve had to make decisions between putting money on the electric metre or buying household and sanitary products for myself. Having been in that position myself made me want to do my part so that other young people are not.
Do you think there is another information/education for young girls about how to use sanitary products?
Emma: No, I distinctly remember being taught how to put a condom on a banana at school but never anything about sanitary products! There is still so much taboo around periods. I think young people should be educated about the choice of products as well as important health issues such as toxic shock syndrome.
Chelle: No, I think that schools do their bit in educating our children but without support from parents it can often go unheard. I’d love to see some help for parents as well as children when educating about sanitary products, periods and menstrual cycles.
Do you think there is enough/any education about consent for both boys and girls?
Chelle: No! I think it really is down to the parent and also in lessons in school. But it can't stop there. It feels a very hush hush discussion and like many things sharing and shouting information rather than hiding it and making it an ‘only in private’ discussion devalues any discussion about it.
Emma: Through my daughter having had sex education at school fairly recently, I witnessed a definite improvement in the education of consent received at school- i.e they actually did receive it! I also think with the increasing use of social media and mobile phones, campaigns from charities such as NSPCC have also promoted the necessity of consent directly to children, however there is still more that could be done.
Have you come across much period poverty amongst older generations as well as school children?
Chelle: Yes! My auntie is a big supporter of what we do and has donated many times as she understands why the project is running due to her own experiences.
Emma: Absolutely, often the parents or carers of the young people we support through the project will rely on food banks for such essential items as sanitary products.
What reaction have you had from schools and teachers?
Chelle: So far so good, towards the beginning of the year we only had 3 schools with a red box, going into the 18/19 school year we have had requests for 14 boxes!
Emma: We’ve had a hugely positive reaction, lots of thank you emails from school staff members informing us of how much the boxes were needed and some telling us they’d previously been buying products for the pupils from their own money.
What do you believe the future holds for period poverty?
Chelle: We hope that with the project we can relieve some of the impact of period poverty however long term we believe more could be done. While the country is facing some tough financial decisions that have a huge impact, and poverty is increasing, I can’t see any way we can impact against it without community generosity and the government earmarking funds to help the people affected.
Emma: I think the recent national reports of period poverty have shocked a lot of people who have not experienced it themselves and therefore awareness is definitely rising. I hope that this will continue to increase with MPs like Sadiq Khan, Paula Sherriff and Daniella Rowley speaking out about period poverty and pledging support to projects such as ourselves. Always the sanitary brand has also recently pledged support to ending period poverty in adverts on tv and social media. But ultimately, I think the future of period poverty is the responsibility of government and more needs to be done to prevent it continuing to be such a widespread problem.
What do you hope for in the work that you're doing?
Emma: To continue to support young people in our community, it would be amazing to have a box in every school of Brighton And Hove so that no young person in education ever has to worry about how they are going to access sanitary products.
Chelle: I hope to see us in every Brighton and Hove school by the end of the year with a sustainable project. We rely on donations so if we don't have them we can’t help. Raising our social profile is a huge part of this!
Do you identify as feminists and do you think we should be raising children as feminists in today's society?
Emma: 100%! I think there needs to be more education for young and old as to what feminism actually means because I’ve definitely encountered people who have completely misunderstood it’s meaning and purpose. I’m raising my own son and daughter as feminists and try to correct people’s misconceptions that I come across. Nothing makes me prouder than listening to my daughter recount debates she’s had with both males and females, friends, peers and sometimes adults about sexism and feminist issues.
Chelle: I do, I had a tough time relating to being a feminist when I was younger (I think just due to stereotypes and not fitting in a set list of what I had thought makes a feminist) however as I grow, educate myself and my own family grows I can see I am. I am raising my boys and daughter to be feminist and find it really empowering to now take on the word as my own.