Amika George is one of the most influential teens of 2018

The young Londoner stepped out last year to try to put “period poverty” to an end, and to tell that periods are not gross.

Amika George, the young Londoner who started the #FreePeriods campaign, was distinguished by Time Magazine as one of the most influential teens of 2018.  The 19-year-old girl was recognized for her work toward menstrual equality. This year, she had already been recognized with the Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers award, for the world-changing impact of her campaign, in terms of poverty and health.

She started the #FreePeriods campaign in April 2017, after she read an article on BBC saying that girls from low-income families were missing school because they can’t afford to buy sanitary protection. In fact, according to Plan International UK, 1 in 10 girls can’t afford to buy pads and tampons, and 137,700 children in the UK have missed school because of period poverty. Others are forced to use toilet paper as an absorbent, so they won’t miss classes. On an interview with British Vogue, Amika said: “To think that we bleed because of a bodily function we have no control over and have that as an additional obstacle is so unfair! No girl should be missing school because she can’t afford to have a period.”

Photo by Andreia Jorge Rodrigues

Her idea with the #FreePeriods signature petition was to ask the government to provide free menstrual products to all the girls who are eligible for free lunch in the UK. After a year, her petition had over 200,000 signatures.

In order to take the subject to a more serious level, on December 2017, Amika George organized a pacific protest outside the Prime Minister Theresa May’s home, to convince policymakers to fund the distribution of menstrual products to girls and women who can’t afford them. The manifestation brought more than 2,000 people to Downing Street to fight for period equality. She told Time magazine: “The government knew this was happening on their watch, but they were refusing to find a solution”. The #FreePeriods campaign gathered the support of over a dozen British policymakers and, in March 2018, the government allocated £1,5 million to address UK period poverty.

During an interview with Teen Vogue magazine, the young activist said: “Seeing all these people come together reinforced that it’s a big issue that most people, if they hear about it, the vast majority want to help to end it. For me, it felt like I was part of a big community of people who were passionate about something and wanted to change it.”

The #FreePeriods campaign is also about breaking down the stigma around menstruation. When it comes to the biggest obstacles to end the taboo, the problem is not only with men, as women are also not opened to talk about this subject. Amika referred: “We talk in whispers and in apologetic tones to each other, to our friends, to our sisters. Unless we break the stigma and normalise conversation around menstruation, we will never accept that periods make women incredible and our bodies powerful.”

To develop this campaign, Amika George recommended: “We need everyone to write about it, to talk about it.” She also said: “A normal biological process affecting half of the world’s population shouldn’t stop any of us from being the best version of ourselves. Let’s praise the period and tell everyone you meet about how bloody remarkable our bodies are.”

 

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