Would you give a tampon or pad to a stranger who needed one?

26 May 2021

We asked whether you’d give a tampon or a pad to someone—anyone—who needed one… even if it was a total stranger in the loo. The results were definitive: our bonds of solidarity haven’t been broken by the pandemic.

#ShareABetterPeriod, this Menstrual Hygiene Day!

#ShareABetterPeriod, this Menstrual Hygiene Day! Photo: ActionAid

This Menstrual Hygiene Day, we’re celebrating the ‘unwritten rule’, whereby many of us will give a tampon or a pad to someone who needs one—even if it’s a total stranger in the loo. 

In fact, we ran a poll on Instagram to find out just how many of us feel strongly about helping out in a tampon emergency. 

A whopping 100% of respondents replied that yes, they’d always help out.* 

So we went further to ask people how they feel about this, and whether the pandemic has made a difference to—or perhaps even strengthened—our bonds of solidarity. Here’s what people had to say

"It's important that we support each other in this way"

  • "Yes I absolutely would give a tampon to a stranger in the loo if they needed one. It wouldn’t even need to be in the loo, I would happily do this anywhere! I think it’s important that we support each other in this way and it’s not a taboo thing to ask for. The pandemic hasn’t changed how I feel about this because if you are in that situation as a girl then you would need the help regardless of Covid-19!" Emma, 34
  • "Yes, I definitely would give a pad (I don't use tampons, so wouldn't have one on hand) to someone who needed one, even if they were a total stranger. I know what it's like to be caught off guard by a period without supplies on hand, worrying about potentially bleeding through my clothes before I can get home. In my experience, even if my initial flow isn't very heavy and can be managed with some toilet paper in my undies, I can never properly relax or focus on anything else if I know I'm on my period and don't yet have a pad in place.

If I had the means to save someone else from that kind of stress, I see no reason why I wouldn't do so. I don't think the pandemic has changed how I feel about that; if I could pass the other person a pad in a socially distanced/Covid-safe manner, I'd still be just as happy to hand it over." Anonymous

"I can't imagine anyone answering otherwise"

  • "Yes, absolutely I would! As a woman, I know what a nightmare it is to get caught short without a pad or a tampon, and I would want to help anyone who found themselves in that situation. I don’t feel that the pandemic has changed my feeling about that at all—I guess I wouldn’t shake their hand after I’d given it to them—but then I probably wouldn’t have done that before the pandemic either…!" Mae, 29
  • "Absolutely. Whether it’s a friend, family member or complete stranger – if you’re in need, my spare tampon is yours! Many of us know that feeling of dread when mother nature comes calling and you’re unprepared – so if I could help a fellow women out in that situation I would, and the pandemic won’t change that for me." Jo
  • "I feel I should say something profound or clever to this question but the simple answer is yes, of course. I would always give a tampon/pad to anyone that needed it and have done so many times. I can’t imagine anyone answering otherwise." Eli

"The more we support each other, the less intimidating it will be to open that cycle (pun intended) of mutual give and take"

  • "Yes I would definitely share a tampon/pad with anyone who asked me in a public toilet - I almost always have a tampon in my bag! It’s so annoying to be surprised by your period at an inconvenient moment, so I’d want to help anyone out. I don’t think the pandemic has really changed my feeling on this... if we’re already inside a public space together I feel like handing over a tampon wouldn’t be too big of a risk to our health, but I’d probably use some hand sanitiser first to reassure anyone!" Ashley, 29
  • "I would trip over my own feet to give a pad or tampon to anyone who needed one, friend or stranger. Loos are such an interesting space — public by definition, but intensely private because of the intimate bodily needs they serve — and that opens up all kinds of social imperatives which rarely apply elsewhere. 

Hygiene, menstrual or otherwise, is a basic human right; the pandemic doesn’t change that, and it wouldn’t stop me from giving something I have to someone who needs it. I suppose I think of it like a given, no-questions-asked: the more we support each other, the less intimidating it will be to open that cycle (pun intended) of mutual give and take." Emily, 28

  • "I would absolutely give a tampon/pad to anyone who needed one. I am sure all my friends would too." Caroline, 36

"It's about unconditional kindness"

  • "Of course! Giving a stranger a tampon is a small gesture, but when you think about it, it’s pretty wonderful. It’s about unconditional kindness; solidarity with no strings attached (tampon pun intended!) In fact, that kind of friendly interaction with strangers is something I’ve come to miss during the pandemic. Being physically distant from one another makes it more difficult - but not impossible - to feel those invisible bonds of solidarity. So I’d be extra careful to sanitise my hands to keep my fellow toilet-goers safe, but I’d absolutely empty my bag to find a tampon, and I’m sure others would do the same for me!" Anon
  • "Yes I would absolutely help someone if they didn’t have sanitary products but needed some. I’m sure we’ve all been there where we get caught out and needed someone to help us with a spare tampon or pad. I know I have been, so I will always return the favour if I can. The pandemic hasn’t changed how I feel about this, as long as they don’t mind me passing it to them!" Beth, 28
  • "Yes, of course! We all know that horrible panicked feeling when you’ve been caught short in a toilet cubicle! There are so many challenges in the world already, being caught short on your period doesn’t need to be one of them. On the pandemic: I think I’m probably even more likely to - it’s been such a rubbish year as it is, so let’s just help each other out." Alex, 27

Share a better period this Menstrual Hygiene Day

As our poll shows, sharing a tampon or a pad with someone in need is something many of us would do without hesitation. 

But what about a woman living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh? Would you help her out too, if you could?

Around the world, millions of women, girls and people who menstruate live without access to the safe, affordable menstrual products they need. 

But if you give a gift of just £3 a month to ActionAid, you could help provide the essentials people need to manage their periods safely, and with dignity. 

So if you’ve ever been helped out with a spare pad, or tampon... why not pass on the favour to someone in need?

Donate now

*Poll conducted 24th May 2021. 195 respondents; 100% answered yes.