The music that inspired #FreePeriods

Music can have a huge impact on the way that we feel and can inspire us to act in a certain way or to take particular actions. Amika George, founder of #FreePeriods, shares the songs that inspired her in her campaign…

In March 2017, I read about schoolgirls in Leeds having to miss school for one week every month, for the astonishing reason that they couldn't afford menstrual products. More research was done, and it was soon found that ‘period poverty’ is a national, and global, epidemic. Across the country, children are missing out on an education, as they're simply too poor to go to school.

Yet, what I found particularly startling was that no action had been taken by the government. Despite the discovery of this atrocious injustice, a silent problem - as the taboo and shame surrounding menstruation holds girls back from speaking up about their struggles, our government failed to condemn period poverty, let alone take action to eradicate it. That’s when #FreePeriods was born.

In April 2017, I started an online petition, calling on Theresa May’s government to provide free menstrual products to all children on free school meals. In less than a year, the campaign had gathered momentum, and galvanised support, in the UK and globally, from people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. We held a protest outside Downing Street in December 2017, where over 2,000 young people, dressed in red and holding banners emblazoned with period-related puns, came together to show their support for the movement.

In that moment, it was clear that #FreePeriods had become far bigger than just me, and that we were a part of a global movement of young activists, fighting relentlessly for what we felt was just and fair. A few months later, the government announced that £1.5 million of funding would be allocated to eliminating period poverty in the UK.

We showed that we could make real, political change and, as well as so many others, the inspiring survivors of the Parkland school shooting highlighted the power of teenage activism once again, proving that young people can, and will, change the world.

When I reflect on where I am now, music has not only defined key moments, it has also been a stimulus and companion to help inform and invigorate my thinking. For me, I think it’s a hugely powerful and uniting way to bring ideas and people together. Here are five songs that never fail to inspire me. When I listen to them, I feel powerful and ready to take on the world - and I hope you will too!

’Flawless’ by Beyoncé - I can’t listen to this ultimate feminist anthem without feeling inspired, and the incredible excerpts of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ speech will forever serve to remind me why our fight for gender equality is so necessary and important.

‘Unwritten’ by Natasha Bedingfield - For me, and a lot of my friends, this was a defining song in our childhoods, and it makes me so happy to imagine myself as a child, completely oblivious to the injustices of the world, or what the future would hold, singing lyrics such as ‘Drench yourself in words unspoken, live your life with arms wide open, today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten.’

‘Girls Get Angry Too’ by GIRLI - This song just has to be on my list of empowering songs. The ridiculously cool GIRLI performed it at the #FreePeriods protest, and I really can’t think of a better song to sum up the feeling of fierce, feminist energy that was almost tangible in the crowd.

‘A Change is Gonna Come’ by Sam Cooke - Inspired by Cooke’s personal experiences of racism in 1960s America, I think this song epitomises the importance of hope, and the power of individuals to persevere in their fight for justice and equality, no matter how oppressive or demoralising the circumstances. I’ll always remember it being performed during Black History Month at my school - there wasn't a dry eye in the house, as everyone was left feeling moved and inspired in equal measure.

‘My Shot’ by Lin-Manuel Miranda - Like the rest of the world, I’m completely obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s genius hip-hop musical, recounting the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. Every song demonstrates the power of persistence and the value of hard work in making change in the world, but ‘My Shot’ truly reflects the importance of self-belief and unwavering determination with its rousing repetition of ‘rise up’ and, possibly my favourite Hamilton quote of all time, one that certainly encapsulates the wave of teenage activism we’re seeing at the moment - ‘This is not a moment, it’s the movement.’

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