Some places around the world are getting it right, or are starting to make headway.
Let’s see what some of the places on the right track are doing so we can follow the best examples here in South Australia:
Scotland, United Kingdom
Leading the way globally, in Scotland, since August 2018, all students at schools, colleges and universities have had access to free sanitary products.
The Scottish Parliament has since approved legislation that would make pads and tampons freely available to all who need them at designated public places such as community centres, youth clubs, and pharmacies.
“In a society as rich as Scotland, no one should have to suffer the indignity of not having the means to meet their basic needs. We also want to continue to reduce the stigma and address the overarching gender equality and dignity issues that affect everyone who menstruate, regardless of their income.” – Scottish Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell
Anecdotal reports in Scotland are showing that one by-product of the scheme is that “free sanitary products help students become much more open, communicative and positive about menstruation”.
Source: YWCA Insights Report Period Poverty in New Zealand
“Pads and tampons are just as essential as toilet paper and soap.
So from this week, we’ll start supplying them in our public schools – free of charge. It’s an Australian first. And it’s the right thing to do.” – Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews
Victorian schools have been the first in Australia to give students free pads and tampons — “because getting your period shouldn’t be a barrier to getting a great education,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said. “This will help reduce stigma and embarrassment for girls, as well as saving families hundreds of dollars.”
Schools will receive free sanitary bins under the initiative, and students will be taught how to manage their periods properly.
Students at secondary schools in New Zealand will have access to free period products.
“The NZ government announced it will foot the bill in an attempt to stamp out widespread period poverty.
Fifteen schools identified as those most in need will have access to free products from term three of this year, with the program going nationwide on an opt-in basis by 2021.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said sanitary supplies for a monthly period were not a luxury, but a necessity and too many girls were skipping school because they weren’t able to afford pads and tampons.
Schools in deprived areas also reported girls being forced to use toilet paper, newspaper and rags in an attempt to manage their period.
The University of Otago found girls who experience period poverty face lifelong implications “for their health, emotional development, education and career prospects”.
The YWCA Insights Period Poverty Report in New Zealand set out how NZ could achieve key possible solutions to the issue ranging from:
(1) Government fully funding free sanitary products for school students (now a reality)
(2) PHARMAC subsidies on the cost of sanitary products
(3) GST removed from sanitary products (now operative in Australia)
(4) Period education aka Menstrual Health Management (MHM).
The report also sets out key players in New Zealand such as social enterprise Dignity, that operates a Buy-One Give-One initiative, partnering with organisations to provide free sanitary items to both their staff and local school students in New Zealand. Dignity’s overall mission is to create a movement for free sanitary items for all women in New Zealand.
England, United Kingdom
In March 2019 it was announced by the UK government that it is set to take measures to ensure sanitary products are free across all schools in England.
At the age of 17, young rights champion Amika George started her successful #FreePeriodCampaign which was influential in creating positive movement in the UK.
You can watch Amika George talk to the issue here:
Amika George, named one of TIME’s 25 Most Influential Teens, and said to TIME:
“We need to make it very clear that we want to see equal access to education for all young people.”
“There’s definitely been a shift in the conversation. Everyone who has a period is starting to question why they are taboo” George says of the progress so far.
“Periods are seen as a women’s issue, so men don’t feel they need to be informed or involved in the conversation. It should be seen as an issue, as opposed to specifically a women’s issue.”
“If you feel you want to do something, there’s strength in numbers,” George says of others who might want to follow her lead. “That’s how change happens.”
The government of British Colombia, Canada made the announcement in April 2019 that it will take measures to ensure sanitary products are free across all schools.
Source: YWCA Insights Report Period Poverty in New Zealand
However, the measures are still not complete.
Anisa Mansour is a Vancouver high school student and activist involved in the campaign who was inspired to action by the Oscar-winning movie ‘Period. End of Sentence,’ which focuses on the issue of extreme period poverty in India.
Anisa Mansour went on to research the impact in Canada and was “stunned” by the data. Mansour now puts out boxes at her school to collect donations of products by her classmates and teachers. The items are then brought to the United Way and distributed to women in British Colombia’s Lower Mainland.
The government’s stance is supported by major sanitary product manufacturers supporting The #EndPeriodPoverty donation program and the support of charities such as The Period Purse.
Seoul, South Korea
Some girls in South Korea were reported to be creating their own home-made pads from shoe insoles due to period poverty. Around the same time, South Korea’s main producer of period products increased its prices of pads by 20%. Public outcry caused the South Korean Metropolitan Government to launch a pilot program to make free sanitary items available at select public facilities including art galleries and libraries.
New York, United States
In 2018, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, made it mandatory for schools throughout the state to provide free period products from grade 6 to 12.
Eliminating Period Poverty: Relevant International Agreements and the Sustainable Development Goals