We must end the scandal of girls who are too poor to afford sanitary products

It is just so sad that far too many young girls feel ashamed about something so natural — and far too many men and women simply will not talk about it.

The only truly shameful thing about menstruation is that almost 140,000 young girls every year in the UK miss school because they cannot afford to buy sanitary protection.

Every month they are losing out on vital education that affects their future. It is a scandal that cannot continue.

Full credit to the Scottish government blazing a trail by ensuring pupils will be given free tampons and pads.

This means that girls who come from homes where money is tight will have one less thing to worry about.

It is also heartening to see that Dundee United, the football team I support, is providing free sanitary protection in the women’s toilets, along with other clubs including Celtic and Brighton.

This is admirable, but it should happen in all sporting arenas and concert venues.

I’m very glad to report that change is in the air.

A campaign spearheaded by Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon aims to ensure free protection to girls most in need, and there is also a group of determined women demanding action.

This week I spoke to 18-year-old Amika George, who is behind the #FreePeriod campaign.

She has also launched an online petition to convince Westminster to follow the lead of the Scottish government and provide free sanitary products in all schools.

When she discovered impoverished girls on their period were having to improvise with old socks taped to their knickers or using wads of bog roll stolen from public toilets, she knew she had to act.

As Amika told me, it is hard enough being a teenager, and it really is unacceptable that young girls are going to school feeling anxious about bleeding all over their uniforms in front of their classmates because they do not have adequate protection. No wonder they often do not turn up.

Many teachers now have a supply of tampons or pads they pay for themselves to help pupils they know cannot afford the products themselves.

Amika has gained a lot of support, but she wants a complete change in attitudes when it comes to menstruation.

With others of her generation, she is fed up with people feeling that this is a subject that has to be hidden from fathers, brothers and boys at school.

She is right.

There is a real reluctance to discuss this thing that has happened every month to virtually every single woman on the planet.

Adverts bizarrely depict blue water poured on to a sanitary pad, and ads for tampons show women being able to sky dive, fight sharks and play the violin.

They do not go into much detail about cramps, heavy bleeding, mood swings and generally feeling like crap for one week out of every four. It is all too sanitised and spoken about in whispers.

The bad news for the penny pinchers in power is that Amika and her army of supporters will continue to make a lot of noise until their demands are met. And it will not stop in the UK.

Amika is determined to ensure that women all over the world are given free sanitary protection.

She wants to change attitudes in countries which see a woman on her period as being “unclean” and even banished to a hut or tent away from the rest of the community.

Obviously we are not THAT bad here, but there is a long way to go before girls feel confident enough to talk about periods without feeling they will be mocked or shamed.

With bright, committed young women such as Amika on their side, I reckon it will not be too long before that sort of thinking is considered as baffling and out-dated as being shunned for having kids without a ring on your finger.

Strictly pay debate

They are upset at being paid 50 grand a series, while the celebrity contestants and judges sashay away with much more for far less work.

I do not think they will receive much public sympathy, as £50,000 for a few months’ work is a heck of a lot of cash.

And frankly, without feisty Brendan Cole as shop steward, I suspect this industrial action will fizzle away like glitter left out in the rain.

Santa, I'd like some earplus

DISTURBING news from the bizarre world of Towie.

Gemma Collins, a woman not known for her shy and retiring personality, has announced she plans to release a single – which she confidently predicts will be the Christmas No1.

You can only imagine the reaction from Elton John, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Madonna on hearing the news.

I’m sure they collectively called up minders, agents and publicists to immed-iately put their own feeble Xmas offerings on ice now that the self-styled “GC” has thrown her hat in the ring.

And if you think she hasn’t a Yuletide snowball’s chance in hell of achieving her goal, do remember that we are the nation that spent actual money to put Bob The Builder, Crazy Frog and The Ketchup Song at the top of the charts.

Mad for must see

WE are being utterly spoilt with the amount of cracking drama on our TVs.

The daddy of them all is the all-conquering Bodyguard, which finishes on Sunday when, hopefully, we will find out who killed the flinty but passionate Home Secretary Julia Montague.

We’ve all had to wait a whole week to discover the latest twists and turns in this brilliant series by Jed Mercurio, which has made a star out of Richard Madden.

And while that is frustrating, it means we will all watch it together and can talk about it endlessly the next morning, just like we used to do.

The other unmissable offering is spy thriller Killing Eve. It’s on BBC1 on Saturday nights, but if you can’t wait, watch it in one massive binge session on BBC iPlayer.

Written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who created Fleabag, it will have you hooked from the first minute.

A classy cast includes Fiona Shaw, who should actually be in everything, Sandra Oh from Grey’s Anatomy, an astonishing Jodie Comer and the always excellent David Haig.

My favourite is Kim Bodnia, the rugged police officer from scandi noir drama The Bridge, who has that brilliant guffaw.

The lines between good and bad are very blurred, Jodie Comer is a vicious serial killer but we can’t help but like her and even hope she gets away with it.

The humour is jet black and painful at times, but it’s original, sexy, witty and addictive.

We’ve been used to accepting in recent years that the best television was born in the US, particularly on Netflix, but both of these homegrown shows prove that when British TV is on top form, it’s unbeatable.

Steps back to full force

Off the back of that triumph, Claire Richards has decided to go solo, and she’s a revelation.

Her new album, My Wildest Dreams, has received critical acclaim and Claire is emerging as a truly talented singer/songwriter.

She’s looking younger, fitter and happier than ever and proves that even in the notoriously fickle and youth-obsessed music business there’s room for a cracking 41-year-old woman at the height of her powers.

Meghan will Spice up royalty

AFTER being caught on the back foot over the very public fallout between Meghan Markle and her dad, palace flunkies have been working overtime to restore her image.

We’ve seen admirable footage of the new Duchess of Sussex working in a community kitchen, helping people affected by the Grenfell fire.

And earlier this week she invited her mum Doria to the launch of a fundraising cookbook.

Meghan also spoke about how proud she was to live in multicultural London and that she feels very much at home.

It was a good speech and made from the heart, although people surprised by the fact she spoke without any notes forget she was an actress and is used to learning lines.

That skill will stand her in good stead, making her seem much more approachable than other members of the Royal Family who read stiltedly from an autocue or awkwardly from cards.

Meghan is very media savvy and knows that those around her dropped the ball.

By inviting her mum to Kensington Palace, and using her star power to raise money for victims of Grenfell, as well as expressing her love for London, she will have won over many of her critics.

I think she genuinely wants to help make a difference.

We will be seeing a lot more of these sorts of events and hearing a lot more too from this very modern royal.

And that’s no bad thing.

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