Lack of period facilities ‘could put women off sport’

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Elinor Snowsill says access to rubbish bins, toilets and toilet paper has been a ‘windfall’.

An international rugby player has warned a lack of period facilities is making women “obstacles” to taking part in the sport.

Fly-help Elinor Snowsill says having access to bins, toilets and toilet paper during her career has been a “stroke of luck”.

One expert said the lack of facilities was due to a lower priority given to grassroots and women’s sport.

The Welsh Government has announced it will set aside £24m for the development of sports facilities by 2025.

Elinor Snowsill, who has 71 caps for Wales, says she was regularly caught on her period in the early stages of her career.

“I once had to change my tampon in a kit container at the side of the field where they kept the pads and the balls,” she said.

“I was afraid one of the male employees would walk in while I was doing it.”

Ms Snowsill said the situation has improved with the WRU providing support such as period pants, pelvic floor exercises and cycle tracking to its elite players.

But she added that there is still more to be done.

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Some women choose not to participate in sports due to a lack of period facilities

“There are still times when we travel abroad and there are no facilities in the toilet,” she said.

Menstrual cramps can already make it difficult for women to exercise, she added.

“We don’t need any more obstacles as there are no facilities.

“It happens once a month – not every now and then, but 12 times a year.”

Recreational athletes say the problem is so widespread that it has been “normalized”.

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Nel Huws, 23, says periods “really affect” players.

Nel Huws, 23, of Clwb Pêl-droed y Felinheli football club, said: “Sometimes it doesn’t even occur to me that there aren’t any facilities because you just get so used to the fact that there aren’t any.

“It really affects the way you can play.”

Teammate Llio Emyr said the team traveled to several games to find there were no facilities in the dressing rooms.

“No toilet paper, no trash cans at all to dispose of period products,” she said.

“Most of the institutions were of course made for men in the beginning.

“You have to keep track of what has been done in leisure centers where there are many facilities.”

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Llio Emyr says the team traveled to several games to find they didn’t have the facilities they needed

The situation could have a “huge” public health impact, according to an expert.

dr Natalie Brown, who researches the menstrual cycle in sport at Swansea University, said: “The reality is that girls and women are being prevented from participating in this sport.

“Because of the concern that they will leak or not be able to manage their periods or not have access to sanitary bins.

“The ramifications from a long-term perspective are indeed enormous.”

It often comes down to funding, she says, particularly for grassroots clubs who rely more on creating their own funding.

“But sometimes it’s also based on the fact that women’s sport isn’t seen as high profile or as important compared to the male counterpart of that sport.

image source, Cassandra Alley

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dr Natalie Brown warned that the “side effects” of poor facilities on women in sport could be huge

“The Welsh Government have been reflecting on their Dignity of Period plan – how can we actually account for the provision of funds and facilities for clubs who may be struggling but see it’s a fairly widespread problem across Wales and across several sports is?”

In 2022, 8% of schoolgirls in Wales surveyed by Sport Wales said they would exercise more if they could manage their periods better.

According to the panel’s deputy director, Owen Hathaway, ensuring adequate facilities for women is vital “to address not only the issue of women’s and girls’ empowerment during their period, but also their empowerment in general and the feeling of being part of it.” to be the sports sector in Wales.”

image source, Matthew Horwood

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Owen Hathaway, director of Sport Wales, said improved facilities would help women feel part of the sporting sector

The WRU said it was keen to remove any barriers to women’s participation in rugby and would be asking all clubs in Wales about facilities needed going forward.

The Welsh Government said: “Since 2018 we have invested around £12m to ensure children and young people and those on low incomes have access to free period products and have £24m in capital available to Sport Wales over the next three years set up to develop facilities across Wales.

“We’re proud of the impact this funding has had and the work we’ve done in partnership with local and public health agencies to get products into our schools, colleges and communities.”

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