A SCHEME designed to help young women struggling to afford sanitary products has been launched at a county secondary school.

A red box containing sanitary towels, tampons and spare underwear will be located within Dunbar Grammar School for any female student to access.

The school, along with East Lothian Foodbank and Dunbar and East Linton Area Partnership, has been working on the project, which it is hoped could be expanded to include the county’s other secondary schools.

Lucy Daniels, foodbank development manager, said: “At the foodbank we see a lot of women and girls who are struggling to afford sanitary products.

“If a family is unable to afford food and has been referred to us, that household may inevitably include women and girls struggling to access vital sanitary products.

“For this reason, we include a bag with towels and tampons (and some chocolate) whenever it is needed.

“However, once we started examining the evidence – both anecdotal and from recent surveys – we realised we wanted to do more to specifically support girls and young women in our schools who might need help.”

Most schools already stock a supply of sanitary towels but are generally only able to give out a couple at a time for emergencies.

The new scheme takes inspiration from The Red Box Project, which was started in Portsmouth.

It aims to lift any anxiety, embarrassment and stress caused by lack of sanitary protection by stocking a red box with the necessary items.

Any pupil requiring sanitary items will be able to access the red box discretely via a nominated member of staff and simply take what they need.

The red box will also have a black line drawn inside.

When supplies drop below that line, a phone call can be made to see it restocked, with the aim of doing so within 48 hours.

Mrs Daniels added: “Any pupil in need of help will be able to ask for the red box contact at reception and access what she needs.

“It’s a simple ‘no frills’ approach which we hope will help girls who need it.

“We’re currently working with pupil support at Dunbar Grammar School to ensure staff and girls are aware of the project and they know how to access it.

“A record of when a box is restocked, what has been used, and what stock is required will be kept in order to better meet the needs of the girls. 

“We will also be liaising with the school to look at whether there has been a drop in missed classes or absenteeism related to girls having their period and for feedback from the girls who are using the box.

“We will continue to collect sanitary donations through the foodbank to support this and we hope that these donations in conjunction with the area partnership funding will allow us to run a 12-month pilot of the project and assess need within the school.”

Councillor Shamin Akhtar, the council’s spokeswoman for education and children’s services, was delighted to see the project being launched and hoped it would be a great success.

She added: “This is a great example of East Lothian Foodbank, our area partnerships and schools working together to address a barrier that girls and young women face in accessing education. 

“The launch of the Red Box initiative will make a difference to girls and young women who face period poverty and, as a result, miss days at school, which has an impact on their education.

“Any initiative that supports girls and young women not to miss schools days is most welcome. 

“Thank you to everyone at East Lothian Foodbank, Dunbar Grammar and Dunbar and East Linton Area Partnership for getting this initiative off the ground.”