New UNsanitary pads campaign highlights shocking reality that unsanitary products such as socks and newspapers are being used in place of period products

Social enterprise Hey Girls, adam&eveDDB and The Big Issue have come together to launch a national campaign to raise awareness of the shocking extent of period poverty in the UK.

Research undertaken to launch the initiative reveals that 1 in 6 UK women or members of their family have been affected by period poverty, and therefore not been able to access sanitary products.

This supports previous research which showed 1 in 10 girls and young women aged 14 to 21 in the UK are unable to afford sanitary wear, yet 45 percent of the public remain unaware of this enormous problem. Meanwhile, 52 percent of UK adults say they are unaware that some girls and young women in the UK use unsanitary items in place of period products due to their expense, including loo rolls, newspaper, socks and leaves.

Reflecting a need for greater awareness and action, the latest research shows 49 percent of Britons say they are ‘ashamed’ period poverty exists in the UK and 38 percent are ‘appalled’. Four in ten (37 percent) say the nature of the problem makes them now fear for girls growing up in the UK.

Hey Girls launches UNsanitary product "period poverty" campaign

The UNsanitary range, created by adam&eveDDB, encompasses real products, and was available at pop-ups in selected ASDA stores on Saturday, 15 February.

At first glance, the UNsanitary range resembles authentic products that follow the normal category cues. However, on closer inspection, shoppers see that they contain items representing some of the real unsanitary items girls are often forced to use — socks, newspaper and loo roll. The products were not actually for sale.

The UNsanitary brand, Hey Girls’ biggest campaign to date, is being supported by a consumer campaign in partnership with 3 Monkeys Zeno and Clear Channel.

3 Monkeys Zeno — working with some of its partners, Markettiers, Run Ragged and Opinium, created a full PR launch plan comprising influencer social media support from people such as Georgie Swallow and Sheri Scott, broadcast, and full media announcement. In collaboration with Clear Channel, the campaign, including some of the influencer content will be displayed across full-motion digital advertising screens in shopping malls nationwide and on their Storm site in London.

To help drive awareness and education, The Big Issue have created a ground-breaking special edition, which includes a 24-page special mini-magazine about periods, menstrual products, poverty, activism, the environment – and what we can all do to make a big difference by taking little steps.

The exclusive edition is a UK-first in the publishing world, the first of its kind, dedicating an entire publication to the issue of period poverty. For many years The Big Issue has championed organisations that tackle period poverty, and through social investment arm, Big Issue Invest, they have supported Hey Girls in their remarkable growth.

In addition to the national distribution from The Big Issue vendors, Hey Girls have recruited their own community partners, who are getting behind the campaign by distributing the publication. For every copy sold through their community partners, Hey Girls will be donating a product to someone in need.

All of the communication links through to the UNsanitary website where Hey Girls and the UNsanitary launch story is revealed.

Celia Hodson, founder of Hey Girls, said: “We created ‘UNsanitary’ to provoke awareness about the shocking extent of period poverty in the UK. Progress is being made, but we knew we needed to do something drastic for large numbers of people to take notice of what so many women and girls are going through. We hope the campaign will rally businesses and the government to instigate more radical changes.”

The mini-magazine, which will be included within the regular The Big Issue edition, has been on sale from vendors across the UK since Monday, 17 February.

The campaign features a new range of stylishly packaged period products, but they are not what they seem. The packs in fact contain UNsanitary items such as loo roll, newspapers and socks – representing what thousands of girls and young women resort to as they are not able to afford period products.

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