A COUPLE of weeks ago, I interviewed a wonderfully inspiring woman who shared with me her experiences of growing up in a poverty-stricken area of Africa.

She got her period at the age of nine and used leaves to manage her menstrual flow, a predicament exceedingly difficult to comprehend for those of us who have always had easy access to sanitary products.

It is an anecdote that many may file away as something that could never happen in the UK, where it is possible to buy a pack of towels or tampons for less than £1.

But Locardia Chidanyika is not the only woman I’ve met who has turned to drastic measures to cope with her period. There are women and girls here in the North-East whose lives are regularly, detrimentally and absolutely unfairly affected by period poverty.

Recent reports suggest that some young people are missing school because they cannot manage their periods, that women are skipping work or college for the sake of a tampon, that there are inappropriate and potentially hazardous items – socks, newspapers, handkerchiefs – being used in place of sanitary products.

Despite the compelling evidence, the concept of period poverty has been scoffed at by those who stubbornly refuse to accept that this is a problem that must be taken seriously.

Campaigners working tirelessly to push for change, to eradicate the hated tampon tax and to ensure access to essential items regularly face criticism.

When Teesside activist Emma Chesworth shared news of the #freeperiod campaign - which aims to end period poverty in the Tees Valley - she was met with a predictable barrage of sneering comments from people (men) who demonstrated a wilful misunderstanding of the situation by breaking down the cost of sanitary products and insisting upon their affordability.

Periods are not cheap and sanitary products are not a luxury. If every woman went without, I imagine it would not take long before the same detractors began complaining about the state of the upholstery.

Flippancy aside, the price on the box does not represent the problems at the heart of period poverty, it does not reflect the mother who has to pay for herself and her three daughters or the woman with just enough money left to buy food or tampons.

It doesn’t represent the cost of the painkillers many rely on to tackle crippling side-effects or the varying number of tampons each woman needs.

Boiling this matter down to numbers fails to acknowledge the damaging impact of this issue on girls and women who are unable to manage as others unthinkingly do, those forced to resort to drastic measures to tackle an unavoidable and irritatingly regular occurrence.

At the time of writing, Middlesbrough Council was about to discuss a motion pledging support for #freeperiod.

Highlighting a Scottish scheme to give women a card enabling them to get free products from pharmacies, the motion to be discussed says the council will commit to further work and explore how a similar scheme could operate in Middlesbrough.

I hope every council in the land follows suit. Women and girls have no choice when it comes to having periods, but those in power could choose to use their influence to push for a system that allows all women to meet a basic need while maintaining their hygiene - and their dignity.