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International Women's Day 2024 - Irise

A group of five people sitting on the edge of a stage happily talking to each other.
A group of people at an Irise event in Sheffield

For International Women’s Day 2024, we’re highlighting organisations in Sheffield that help and provide support to women, trans or non-binary people.

We spoke to Calum Smith, Interim CEO/ Head of Operations at Irise, a period equality organisation, about how they work with young people to ensure periods are not a barrier to them reaching their full potential.

What does Irise do to support people in Sheffield?

From access to period products, to getting healthcare support and finding accurate information about their own bodies, periods are a significant driver of anxiety and poor mental health for young people. It’s the biggest single cause of school absence and the situation is only getting worse for many due to the cost-of-living crisis and long-term impacts of the pandemic.

We train young people affected by period inequality to become champions in their communities, setting up free period-product banks, providing peer to peer education about periods and how to access support and leading campaigns with local and national government and other stakeholders to advocate for the support they and their peers need. After support from Irise:

  • 90% of young people improve their knowledge of their period
  • 85% of young people feel less stressed and anxious about managing their period
  • 87% feel able to talk about periods without shame 40% are more able to participate in school and work

As well as working within Sheffield, we also work nationally and internationally.

Why Sheffield for your organisation?

Irise was founded by a group of academics and students from the University of Sheffield in response to requests from girls in East Africa for help staying in school during their periods.

The university continues to support our international work, and students from there are heavily involved in volunteering for and supporting the charity. It was University of Sheffield students who first adapted our international work to help young people in Sheffield.

During the pandemic we significantly stepped-up our local work as part of the emergency response and have built strong ties with local communities and anchor community organisations.

Period inequality is a significant and growing issue for young people in Sheffield, but the good news is that with the right support and by breaking the stigma around periods, we can turn things around.

Do you have any advice for people who experience periods and need support?

You are not alone. Over a third of young people are missing school every month because of a lack of access to period products or other period support. The average time it takes to get a diagnosis of endometriosis – a common but often severely limiting menstrual disorder – is 8-10 years. Stigma around periods keeps this a hidden problem, but help is available.

Reach out to us at or on 0114 706 9955 and we’ll help you find the support you need.

Visit Irise's website for more information.