IT is a natural occurrence known as 'the time of the month.'

Menstruation is part of a woman's reproductive cycle. It can be a nuisance but generally it comes and goes and women cope.

Imagine though young girls who cannot afford sanitary products or are prevented from accessing them? Hard to comprehend isn't it? Yet period poverty is very real and is having a significant impact on many young girls in the UK with a staggering number actually being forced to miss school simply because they are on their periods.

There are potential health issues too with some girls over-using sanitary products because they couldn't afford to purchase new supplies.

Now a community based initiative is helping to tackle period poverty.

Launched in Portsmouth in March 2017, The Red Box Project was the brainchild of three friends who wanted to give women in their local area access to sanitary products.

They'd heard about 'period poverty' in the news and were frustrated young women were missing out on their education because they couldn't afford the products they needed during their period.

Initially they contacted several secondary schools in Portsmouth to ask if a constantly stocked box of sanitary wear would be welcomed.

Based on the positive feedback they received the project was born and developing as more women across the country set up Red Box projects in their communities. Products are donated by community, businesses, brands, local shops, group collections and individuals.

Learning about the initiative through social media, Charlotte Furness was keen to get involved. As coordinator of the Red Box Project in Bradford, Charlotte is busily introducing it to the city's 200 or so schools.

"They say 40 per cent of girls have used toilet paper or having to choose between buying lunch or sanitary products," she explains.

Bradford is one of 300 projects across the country. Charlotte says they are keen to make Red Boxes available to all girls in all schools free of charge.

She says she would like to see those getting free school meals having access to free sanitary products.

The products are supplied in a Red Box, hence the name of the initiative. "They are nice and easy to spot - everyone gets that visual link," explains Charlotte.

Each box contains sanitary pads, tampons, spare knickers and paper bags. Some even contain an inspirational message.

Charlotte says they are seeking donations to help fund supplies for the boxes and have set up funding sites on social media.

Since launching in Bradford demand is growing. Appleton Academy in Wyke is among the schools involved.

Anna Wallace, a member of staff at Appleton Academy, says: "Period poverty is an issue that is prevalent not only in Bradford but within society."

She says the school regularly supports girls by providing a range of sanitary products, not just for the day but to cover their cycle. "I believe there are several reasons for period poverty. Some girls simply forget to keep sanitary products in their bag and have an ‘emergency.' Some feel too embarrassed to ask their parents/carers to buy the products for them and are uncomfortable asking staff."

Anna explains there are cases where girls don’t know how to look after themselves having not had conversations about menstrual hygiene at home. "The Academy takes great care to educate students on topics such as puberty but, if this is not part of a wider conversation at home, girls can feel unsure of where to seek advice when at school.

"Many families don’t have the funds at home; there isn’t the money to pay for products, which can be expensive. We know that some girls have used toilet paper as they are ashamed about not being able to afford sanitary products adding to already low self-esteem."

She says knowing the school can provide support during their menstrual cycle can greatly affect confidence and improve self-esteem: "It’s also one less thing for the students to worry about.

"Menstrual care is a human right, we need to open up conversations and dispel the stigma that surrounds menstruation and ‘that time of the month.'" adds Anna.

For more information call in to Fox and the Magpie in Bradford Road, Shipley on Monday June 4 from 4 until 8pm.

For more information visit or @redboxprojectbradford.