For a couple of years now, we’ve been working with the brilliant charity Revive, who support people who are refugees and seeking asylum. The Women’s Group meet weekly on a Monday, and over the last six weeks, we’ve been working with them on a period poverty project – making reusable sanitary towels to keep, gift or donate to the Pachamama project.

What is Period Poverty?

A survey by Action Aid last year found that a shocking 12% of women in Britain have struggled to buy period products for themselves, or a dependent.

The Stitched Up team and friends had a chat about this, and the list of things we’ve used in an emergency when we didn’t have a any sanitary products was quite long! Toilet roll, socks, doubling up underwear, nothing and hoping for the best…

Period poverty can prevent women and girls from attending school and participating in society, especially in countries where there is shame around periods.

The scale of this issue is highlighted by the fact that the average woman spends about 10 years of their life on their period (Every Month Manchester).

What is being done to tackle it?

In the UK, tax on sanitary products (the ‘tampon tax’) was abolished in January 2021. Previously, the government charged a 20% tax on sanitary products because they were classed as “non-essential, luxury items” (!!!).

The Tampon Tax Fund, established in 2015, allocated the funds generated from VAT on period products to projects supporting vulnerable and excluded women and girls.

In the UK there’s now a scheme enabling schools to get free sanitary products for their students, and another scheme for hospitals.

However, that still leaves huge sections of the population out!

It is largely being left to charitable groups and projects to fill this gap.

One of these brilliant groups called Every Month (based in Manchester) donates packs of disposable pads and tampons to food banks, charities and shelters. They are also campaigning for the government to make sanitary protection available to everyone who needs it.

Another of these projects is the Pachamama project, set up in 2020 by students in the UK. They now work with about 1,000 volunteers to make reusable sanitary pads and distribute them to women and girls in Greece, Lebanon, USA, UK, Turkey and Syria. They only supply the pads to those who have access to washing facilities, otherwise reusable pads would obviously be useless. They focus on supporting refugees and people seeking asylum.

While they aren’t for everyone, reusable sanitary pads are great because a set (of 8) can last about 5 years, if you have access to washing facilities.

They have recently been growing in popularity here because they result in far less waste than disposable products.

A researcher from Dalhousie University found that a year’s worth of a typical feminine hygiene product leaves a carbon footprint of 5.3 kg CO2 equivalents.

Aisle, who make reusable pads, say switching to reusable pads and underwear reduces waste by 99% and C02 emissions by 95%.

Zero Waste Scotland have done some interesting research on this topic, finding that someone switching from tampons to menstrual cups would have 16 times less carbon impact, saving 7 kgCO2e over a year.


The Women’s Group at Revive sewed up lots of pads, most of which they have donated to friends and family. Each pad took around 1 – 2 hours to complete, and with practice they’re a lot quicker!

If you fancy getting involved with the Pachamama Project and sewing pads to donate, or to use for yourself, there are great instructions on the website and they’re really easy to sew. They’re also a great way to use up leftover fabrics.

If you do make any, let us know how you get on!