Today I was proud to give my maiden speech in full council on the incredibly important issue of period poverty. Here's what I had to say:
"The Green group really welcomes this motion and I'm grateful to the City Convener for bringing it. I could not be happier that I'm spending my first speech talking about periods. I'm also grateful to women in other parties, including Monica Lennon MSP, and to WomenforIndy for their work in getting this on the national agenda of late, but I also want to pay tribute to the feminists who have been banging on about this for literally decades. It's thanks to their tireless campaigning work that we're at a point where our First Minister has made a commitment to free sanitary products in schools. What amazing progress. At last.
"I want to bring this amendment to make a couple of important points. The first one is that we need to be careful, because while I absolutely welcome the focus on girls and young women, it's not just about girls. Non binary and transgender people with uteruses menstruate too, and they face the double stigmatisation of having a period and being invisible. There are many barriers to non-binary and trans people accessing healthcare and we should ensure that we actively eliminate these barriers. Let's be inclusive from the off.
"Secondly, we know that giving dignity to those who bleed every month is a priceless aim. But we also know it will have a price. And it's going to be difficult. The reality of periods is that periods are different not just person to person, but that for that same person they can be different month to month and they certainly are different day to day. This is especially true for young people going through puberty with irregular periods that haven't settled down yet, so it's even harder to predict what supplies you might need. The reality of periods is you might need to go from a thin pad to a thicker pad and back down again. You might need to use 3 or 4 different types or absorbencies of tampons, and they all come in different boxes and you have to buy them all. And if you get it wrong – well, either you leak, get blood everywhere and you need a change of clothes (which is difficult in a school uniform), or on the other hand if you wear a tampon that is too absorbent and you don't bleed that much, the tampon absorbs all the natural vaginal lubrication so it hurts like hell to take it out.
"So to provide a combination of different absorbencies, every single month, to meet the needs of all menstruating students, is going to be a challenge. I hope we can - from the off - rule out the idea of just buying boxes of the cheapest pads and tampons - they're awful, they're difficult to use, they don't sit right, and they hold about a thimble full of blood. You're better off sometimes with a wad of toilet paper. So let's be very clear that providing the very cheapest products will not provide dignity.
"But colleagues, I'm saying all of this because there is an answer. There is a way through this that would provide dignity and save us money. That's why I want to talk about menstrual cups. Menstrual cups are the life-changing period product you've never heard of. Well, they don't have the advertising money to compete with the big brands - so here you go, this is a mooncup! Other brands are available, this is from Boots and don't worry, it's brand new. A menstrual cup is made of silicon and sits in the vagina and collects blood. You empty it, rinse it under a tap, and re-insert, repeat. The game-changing thing is that these are re-usable, and this one cup can be used for any day and any flow. On your heaviest day it will serve you better than the biggest tampon. On your lightest day, it's not absorbing anything - you could literally wear it all the time and it would do you no harm, unlike tampons. And the best thing, and the crucial thing for us to consider in terms of budgets, is that one mooncup lasts one person for TEN YEARS. Ten years. That's over a hundred periods where you are sorted, with no need to buy anything else. They cost £22, which works out to 18p per period, per person.
"Menstrual cups do take some getting used to, and some people can't or won't use them. And once a month you do need access to boiling water to sterilise your cup. So I'm not suggesting we provide nothing but mooncups. But this is our long term solution. This is a real, sustainable, way we can meet everyone's needs, and this is how we can empower people to take control of their period. In enabling people to access this revolutionary third option, Glasgow could trail-blaze a path and allow everyone who menstruates to get through their period with dignity, every month, over and over again. Please support this amendment."