Photo of Tina Leslie

Tina Leslie

Tina Leslie has been nominated by Pria Bhabra, a nominee in our Social Impact Star category. Pria says “Tina is a very busy mother, wife, and a grandma and holds down two jobs! Her energy and passion is to be admired. She is motivating and inspirational. Tina volunteers where she can (soup kitchens, festivals, foodbanks) but here’s a story that has made a huge impact and has gained many supporters.

Tina visited Kenya five years ago as a volunteer, supporting a mother and baby group. She learned that 60% of Kenyan girls and women don’t have access to safe sanitary protection. They miss five days of school each month and use ash dung, bits of their mattress leaves or rags to stem their flow. The girls experience stigma if they leak. Some drop out of school altogether and end up marrying young. This was an issue that Tina was unable to ignore.”

Who will the initiative help/who has it helped already?

Pria says “Not having a clue about setting up voluntary organisations, Tina worked hard to set up the freedom4girls initiative whilst raising awareness and gaining support for period poverty. She has worked tirelessly putting in her time and energy into this great cause.

She visited Kenya on numerous occasions out of her own pocket. Last year, whilst working in partnership with Maji Safi Projects in Bristol, she was successful in gaining £5,000 funding. Her research led her to Days for Girls, whose washable pads last up to three years so are very sustainable.

Tina bought sewing machines in Kenya, sourced local materials and found local women with skills. She then connected them to charities, schools, local elders and public health officials who welcomed this initiative.

Tina added value by supporting local women to educate girls in school. Further funding was then gained to set up two micro enterprises to deliver 3000 sanitary packs to girls and educate over 5000 women and girls. This is truly amazing and has helped women with confidence and mental wellbeing. In addition, the micro enterprises mean that local women can earn a living.

Through this work, a school in Leeds contacted Tina about girls missing school. Tina was able to source and supply 1000s of sanitary packs for girls and women who cannot afford sanitary protection.

This had a ripple effect in raising awareness to the rest of the UK, where she has worked to support schools, refugee agencies and women refuges. The subject is being talked about openly for the first time, not only in the UK but worldwide.”

What’s worked?

“Feedback from Kenya highlights that the girls now feel more confident and comfortable and can run and jump and play and not be worried about leaking. They are at peace, one teacher explained. In Leeds, freedom4girls is campaigning to end period poverty and helping to provide a choice of reusable sanitary pads.

In, Leeds, Tina has set up donation stations with posters in workplaces and supermarkets. Pads that are being donated are available to foodbanks and other organisations. She organises pad sewing workshops and charity events, interviews from people all over the world, trying to raise funds not only for Kenya but the UK too.

Through, Tina raised £3000 in a week to help deliver a choice of protection in Leeds. The subject has been brought up in Parliament and every major newspaper has taken up the story, since what this was not considered to be an issue in the UK.

Plan International UK offered money to set up the first successful period poverty summit in Leeds with thanks to 41 Labour councillors who donated funds towards the summit. 140 people attended from all over the country, with women’s champion Paula Sherriff MP as the main speaker.

Every political party,  except the Conservative Party, has now got a menstruation manifesto and Labour has pledged £10m to fight period poverty if they get into power.”

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

Tina says “There have been very few blocks. Those that I have experienced have mostly been from men who do not comprehend the issue and have been negative. It has been hard to get Public Health and the Council to recognise what I do, so every spare minute outside work is taken up with freedom4girls.”

What’s next?

Pria says “Tina has been interviewed by the BBC, followed by Radio Leeds, Look North, Women’s Hour, Jeremy Vine and the BBC World Service. It brought to light not only that girls were missing schools because of lack of funds. It was also the lack of education about the the environmental impact and that in the UK there was no research to highlight the extent of the problem. Tina’s hard work, volunteer time, money and commitment has led the work to continue both in the UK and globally to eradicate period poverty.”

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

“Follow the freedom4girls page and get involved.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in our region!

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