Niamh and Izzy: Using their voices to make a difference

09 Dec 2018


Cousins Niamh and Izzy, 18 and 21 are participants in Voicebox Cafes. They’ve been taking part in the sessions at Citizens Advice Manchester since July 2018, and in that time they’ve developed #sobloodyovait - a campaign to tackle the issue of period poverty in local schools.

img_5009.png

Izzy says "When we first came along to the Voicebox Cafes we thought that we were just going to learn about people who had already done things, we didn't realise we'd be encouraged to do things ourselves. But Vicky (Voicebox Cafes tutor at Citizens Advice Manchester) was like, do more."

Niamh says "There was a lesson on campaigning where Vicky asked if anyone had any ideas and we put ourselves forward. When I'd first heard of period poverty and realised that it was a real issue for girls and women in the area we live, I thought 'Why is this not a bigger thing? Why don't more people care?'.

"We've raised over £600 now to buy sanitary products for local schools, and collected even more. The next step is to get the sanitary products we've collected into schools. We've spoken to local councillors who've agreed to help us out.

Niamh acknowledges that there have been challenges too. "We've had plenty of people who don't agree with us or don't think period poverty is a real problem. When people are negative towards the campaign we try to hit them with facts and educate them. Men often put comments saying 'why is toilet roll not free?'. People seem to make a joke out of it and it's a serious thing.

"There's not enough women's voices out there is there? Women aren't encouraged to take the lead, and as soon as you do you're told you're bossy, or labelled a crazy feminist. That wouldn't happen if you were a man.

"There's not enough women's voices out there is there? Women aren't encouraged to take the lead, and as soon as you do you're told you're bossy, or labelled a crazy feminist. That wouldn't happen if you were a man.

"Our biggest achievement has been to get people talking about period poverty. There's still a real lack of understanding - I've had to explain to one woman that for people in real poverty the choice is sometimes literally between food or sanitary products. That's not right."

Izzy says "Since we started this campaign we've been on the local radio, we've even had Stacey Solomon retweet us and got hundreds of likes, but possibly our proudest moment was when we managed to get our story in the Tameside Reporter. We used to deliver that paper and now we're in it!"

"We know the problem of period poverty is bigger than us. We need the government to recognise what the issues are and take them seriously enough to make permanent change, like Scotland has. We are part of a bigger movement of change."

And Niamh and Izzy's advice for anyone who wants to use their voice to make a difference?

"Just do it. It's easy to say that but you just need to take that first step and then you'll find a way to keep going."

Featured project

Voicebox Cafés