I find it fascinating that when I ask my students whether they watch or read the news the reply is generally in the negative. Maybe part of the reason might be found in the fact that so much news resides only temporarily in our conscience before it is replaced by yet another item of news, ‘fake or not’ and we are bombarded with information churned out 24/7, minute by minute. What is alarming is that important issues are reported on, sometimes in a somewhat perfunctory manner, and lost in the mix of other important and less important issues.
And so it is for an item of news that caught my eye just before Christmas. I didn’t really think much about it until somewhere in the back of my mind I had a niggling feeling that just can’t be right. The news item, as I recall it, related to a protest outside Downing Street about women’s sanitary products. A young lady led the protest about the lack of availability of the products for young people, or was it that V.A.T was being added to the products? I just remember the banal comments made by some supporting actress and what I thought were somewhat distasteful banners being displayed. But on reflection all of this masked a serious issue, that of equality and Human Rights. Part of the storyline behind the news was that some young women were not going to school at certain times because they could not afford sanitary products. I couldn’t even imagine the embarrassment this must cause for young ladies. And then I thought about how it might affect other women on low or no income.
There has been much in the news about equality for women recently, most notably around the issue of equal pay. But this issue of sanitary products is even more fundamental. If you don’t have a decent education, how can you get into the work place, let alone achieve parity on pay?
The last time I looked, education was a Human Right. I don’t think the basis of this was something along part time education according to certain times of the month. Women did not ask to be put into this position and it isn’t something that afflicts men. I bet if it did, sanitary products would be available in every public toilet for free and you could probably order your free delivery on line.
I’m not sure how it should work but if we believe in Human Rights and we believe in equality, sanitary products, or the lack of should not be allowed to hold women back. There may be a cost but the payback would be tremendous.
More recently in the news, the Prime Minister, Mrs May, has been visiting China and according to the news had some difficult conversations about Human Rights records. I would suggest that perhaps she ought to look closer to home. And as for the media, perhaps some issues should linger longer to have a chance of embedding themselves in the public’s conscience.