EDINBURGH (Reuters) – Scotland’s North Ayrshire Council has become the first local authority in Britain to provide free sanitary provision in public buildings, hoping to tackle “period poverty”.

The council said on Friday women and girls would be given free sanitary towels and tampons via vending machines in toilets in public premises, extending a service already available in secondary schools in the council region.

Studies show period poverty is a particularly acute problem in Scotland. Girls’ rights charity Plan International UK found 45 percent of respondents were obliged to use makeshift sanitary wear, with some women reduced to using newspapers and socks.

In the UK overall, the problem affects one in 10 having grown along with the numbers of poor and the use of food banks.

But the campaign for women’s menstruation to be treated more openly and with dignity has also come to the fore alongside broader concerns about degrading and abusive treatment of women.

“If it isn’t a subject that people talk about, then it isn’t something girls can simply ask for,” said Gabby Edlin, CEO and founder of the charitable project Bloody Good Period. She said it was revolutionary that public authorities were addressing the issue directly by providing sanitary products.

For latest news and updates

“It’s a human rights issue too, because some girls are unable to attend school because they can’t manage their periods,” she said.

The Scottish government last year piloted a plan to tackle period poverty in Aberdeen, and earlier this year said it had provided funds to the charity FareShare to extend the program. There is also legislation pending in the Scottish parliament that would create free provision of sanitary products across Scotland.

(Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by David Holmes)