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Morrisons Community champion from Bolton creates ‘Package for Sandy’ initiative goes nationwide in response to period poverty

It is shocking to me that we live in such an affluent country yet young girls are still being forced to go without, damaging their confidence and self-esteem as a consequence through no fault of their own.

When I was younger and first came onto my period, I did not want to tell my parents and I certainly did not want the embarrassment of purchasing sanitary wear over the counter. In fact, I would do anything to avoid purchasing what I needed, so much so, I would spend all £10 of my pocket money utilising the machines in the girls bathroom at £2 a time for 2 tampons. As you can imagine, 10 tampons did not go far, but I did not feel confident going into a store, picking up the box of what I needed for everyone to see and facing the cashier – not that they would be bothered but I was. I eventually ran out of money and had to ask for help, and it was then I realised how lucky I was. Me and my family have never had a lot of money but we did have enough to get by, to purchase essentials and of course sanitary wear. However, I realised from discussions with my peers at the time, along with the ever growing demand for sanitary wear now from food banks and community groups that I work with, this is something we have to act upon.

I knew I wanted to create something that would remove barriers to obtaining sanitary wear. This led me to consider how I could utilise the unbelievably generous resources available to me from Morrisons to help others. I had seen ‘Ask for Angela’ and ‘Ask for Ani’ initiatives on social media before, whereby you could discreetly ask for help by asking for ‘Angela’ or ‘Ani’. This secret code word had been well received by young people’s it discreetly indicates to a member of staff that they feel uncomfortable on a date with a new person (Ask for Angela) or that a person is struggling with domestic abuse (if they ask a pharmacist for Ani). This allows the member of staff in both scenarios to discreetly support the person by safeguarding them, offering them help and information. This concept both fascinated and brought comfort to me, it seemed so obvious and needed, leading me to consider the possibility of utilising these initiatives to help combat period poverty.

After talking through my ideas with my community coach, Matthew Duthoit and the Community Champion, Leona Taylor, from Nelson, we came up with our own version of Ask for Angela/Ani – named ‘Package for Sandy’. The name Sandy was chosen as a play on the word sanitary, with the passphrase being to ‘ask for a package for Sandy’ at our customer service desk, to which the person would be handed a brown paper bag with what they needed, discreetly with no questions asked. The idea is the service is easy, accessible, convenient and free of judgement, embarrassment and cost. The person is served quickly in the same manner as everyone else in an environment that is part of everyday life.

Our staff have an important role in our ‘Package for Sandy’ initiative as they are the friendly face and reassuring hand that women need in their moment of vulnerability. A moment of vulnerability that many of us will have felt. To me, we are not just giving out free sanitary wear, we are investing and empowering women from all backgrounds to feel confident, comfortable and supported – all attributes a woman needs to be the best version of herself. This campaign reflects that Morrisons is here for women, whether it be because they can not afford sanitary wear, or simply because they did not expect to come on and came unprepared whilst shopping.

Together, we can try to ensure every woman has the right to easily accessible free sanitary wear.

Together we can beat period poverty.