Our work has grown from a simple belief that feeling clean is not a privilege and that everyone deserves a dignified life.
Global recession and the subsequent austerity measures to cut spending on social services coupled with increased sanctions on benefit recipients has meant poverty is on the rise. The post-Brexit political climate has increased exclusion and stigmatization of the least privileged in our society. Tabloid newspapers, reality TV programs and other media portray often people in poverty as ‘benefit scroungers’, feckless’ ‘on the take’ and undeserving ‘others’.
But it is the economy that is locking people into poverty. Low-paid, unstable jobs and rising living costs mean more and more families can’t make ends meet, leaving them unable to think about a different future.
The Hygiene Bank is a social movement underpinned by compassion and justice. We see our work as an act of solidarity, that is grounded in an understanding that we all have times in our lives when we need help, and times in life when we’re able to offer help. It is only by standing in solidarity that we can destigmatise the experience of poverty, and encourage more empathic responses to people who are struggling. We need a critical mass of people who care enough to make some of the more recent policy choices around poverty unacceptable.
Our ambition is to one day, no longer need to exist. We want to be more than a sticking plaster to a broken system and want to play an influential role in tackling poverty. That’s why, as well as collecting and redistributing hygiene beauty and personal grooming products, we’ve committed to using the framing recommendations proposed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. So we can reframe poverty as a systemic rather than individual issue; and as something we can solve, rather than something that will be with us forever.
Still on the topic of language. ‘Feminine hygiene products’, ‘Sanitary protection’, ‘Menstrual hygiene’. All these phrases have one thing in common – they infer that periods and women are dirty. Despite great progress made by campaigners, menstruation is still a taboo. Until very recently we’ve only seen blue liquid in period product adverts. It is 2020 and that’s why from now on, we stand with our partners at Hey Girls UK and will remove the word ‘sanitary’ from all new marketing materials and call these essentials ‘period products’ because periods are natural, not dirty.