SCHOOLGIRLS in an Oxfordshire town can now pick up free sanitary products and underwear from bright red boxes in a project launched by the local Women's Institute.

The Wantage WI group have put the boxes up at King Alfred's secondary school, Fitzwaryn special school and the Sweatbox youth club to help girls who struggle to afford proper sanitary products to discreetly access them without shame or embarrassment.

Now the group is asking the community for more donations and venues to host a box in a bid to tackle so-called 'period poverty'.

Co-ordinator Janet Kingdon said: “We need red boxes wherever our school-aged young women are, but it’s not just about the sanitary products they can access: it means someone cares about them, about their well-being – about their ability to achieve their best in school.

"Who knows what effect that sense of someone caring will have on their future.

"It is exciting to see the enthusiasm and support from the community, but we always need more donations."

Nationwide, one in 10 girls struggle to afford sanitary products, and the WI claims that last year 137,700 girls missed school because they did not have appropriate sanitary wear.

The Wantage initiative aims to support disadvantaged young women throughout their entire period, ‘so that they do not have to miss lessons or their education’.

It has been spearheaded by the new ‘Burnt Cakes’ WI branch, set up in April 2018, which now has more than 100 members and meets every third Tuesday in Shush nightclub in Wantage

Branch president Rebekah Pugh said: “To me the WI is all about action, kindness and being a force for change.

"The committee and I are so proud that very quickly the Burnt Cakes WI has been able to set up this wonderful project that will change the lives of local girls and young women.”

Donation boxes in the Wantage area can already be found in The Beacon civic hall, Buzz café, Regents Furniture, Room for Beauty at KA Fitness, the Co-op in Grove, Green Bean toddler and baby group and the KA Scouts District HQ.

Fitzwaryn School deputy headteacher Jane Edwards said: "I was alarmed to find out that, both locally and nationally, some girls may not be accessing education on a regular basis because families cannot afford sufficient sanitary products.

“It is good to know that I can just email for further supplies when the box begins to empty.

“I hope that other initiatives are happening around the country to begin to alleviate this problem nationwide.”

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