Welcome back to our opinion column from Claudette Lawrence, a disabled campaigner and activist from Thamesmead.

She has a strong interest in current affairs and local issues, and is passionate about eliminating the stigma of mental health. She'll be sharing her views on issues that are close to her heart in Claudette's Concerns.

When we talk about poverty, we often think of having no food or money.

But period poverty is a new phenomenon and a very controversial issue. It is not just about the lack of sanitary protection, but also when you look deeper it is also about stigma and shame around periods. Also, the lack of knowledge about periods in general.

According to research by the charity Plan International, 137,000 children in the UK have missed school because of period poverty.

A survey of more than 1,000 girls found nearly half were too embarrassed about their period and many were afraid to ask for help because of stigma.

One in 10 girls cannot afford to buy sanitary products,14 per cent had to borrow sanitary products from a friend due to affordability issues, 12 per cent had to improvise sanitary wear.

There is a real stigma around menstruation and periods. Other statistics show that 48 per cent of girls age 14 to 21 in the UK were too embarrassed to discuss periods, and 14 per cent said they did not understand what was happening to them. Only 22 per cent felt comfortable discussing it with others, while 64 per cent of the girls missed sport or PE due to their period and 52 per cent have made an excuse.

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Often men do not feel comfortable buying sanitary protection. One in 10 women were asked not to talk about periods in front of their mother and 12 per cent in front of their father.

This is shocking considering that a woman has an average of 450 periods in her lifetime. Also, the average UK woman will spend in her life more than £18,000 on sanitary products including pain relief.

Having sanitary protection is a human right yet the research has proven that young girls or women are being deprived.

It is also very worrying for women sleeping rough, as 68,000 women are homeless in the UK.

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Claudette Lawrence

Why is this?

Clearly, some girls come from low-income families and are unable to afford sanitary wear and as discussed some are too shy or embarrassed to discuss it for fear of the stigma surrounding it. Ongoing taboos around periods and lack of access to affordable and safe sanitary products have a huge impact on the lives of women.

It was announced on February 23, that by 2020, it will be compulsory to teach about periods and menstrual wellbeing in school regardless of gender. Education secretary Damian Hinds will set out plans to make this happen. I am delighted to hear this as a woman who suffers from endometriosis which is a debilitating gynaecological condition that takes an average of 10 years to diagnose.

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The government has lobbied Brussels to change the rules regarding the tax on sanitary products. In the meantime, it has agreed to use the £15 million annual tax revenue to fund charities such as domestic abuse charities. A woman spends more than a £150 a year on protection.

Hopefully, by teaching about periods in school, it will bring about some changes around the stigma around menstruation. But clearly, people need educating on this issue as it should not be shameful to discuss.

The inability to discuss this matter honestly and openly is very bad. This is a worldwide issue which needs addressing. The government needs to ensure that this is included in sex education and improve education on the matter.