Amika George - The 19 Year Old Who Changed UK’s Laws
Can you imagine using socks, tissues or newspapers as pads? Can you imagine not having access to clean, hygienic menstrual products? This is the reality faced by many girls around the world and Amika George has decided to change this. At 19 years old she’s changed and is still changing the lives of many young women in the UK.
In April 2017, she read about young girls missing school as they were unable to afford menstrual products. This is referred to as ‘period poverty’. Having access to menstrual products is something that many of us take for granted, however, more than forty million women and girls suffer from period poverty. After reading about this, Amika was horrified at what she discovered and so, from her very own home, she launched the FreePeriods campaign to end period poverty.
The FreePeriods campaign started in 2017, as an online petition to call on the government to make free period products available in all schools and colleges in the UK. Since then, more than 270, 000 people have now signed the petition.
Amika personally told us:
“I started FreePeriods after learning that girls were missing school for days every month. These were children from the very poorest families in the UK, who were having to choose between eating and staying warm. Missing school meant they were compromising their educational attainment, their ambitions for the future, the chances of escaping from the clutches of poverty for future generations, who were facing isolation, stress, and loss of dignity.”
These young girls are forced to miss school because they do not have the money to buy pads, tampons and other menstrual items. In the UK, 1 in 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products. In Australia, there is no hard data on period poverty. However, Rochelle Courtenay, founder of Share the Dignity (a charity which provides free tampon and pad vending machines to disadvantaged women and girls), estimates that 27% of Australian high school students have missed school as a direct result of period poverty.
Amika also organised a protest in December 2017, which took place in Downing Street, outside the headquarters of the Government of the United Kingdom. More than 2000 people showed up to protest, calling on the government to end period poverty.
She’s worked tirelessly, and after two years of constant campaigning she has succeeded, saying “The government has pledged that free period products will be available in all schools and colleges in the UK. Periods should never hold back a child from accessing their education and being their very best.”
When Amika found out about this, she said, “I was beyond ecstatic! I just couldn't believe that after two years of campaigning, something was about to change once and for all. It showed me that a teenager can make a difference and change government policy.”
However, Amika hasn’t stopped since then, saying “(my) next step is to work on the shame and stigma that’s bound up in periods, which we really need to eradicate.”
Due to Amika’s Free Period campaign, she won the Melinda and Bill Gates’ Goalkeepers’ Global Goals Campaign Award in 2018, and was named as one of TIME’s 25 Most Influential Teens of 2018.
Amika is an extraordinary young woman. She’s managed to spread awareness about this issue across the whole country, as well as changing the minds of politicians. She’s even managed to change the UK’s laws. Amika George is a young person making ALL the difference in the world.