We need an accessible, non-stigmatising supply and distribution scheme for a range of free hygiene and sanitary products that will reach South Australian girls who cannot afford to purchase these essential items themselves.
We can no longer shrug off the impact of menstruation as an individual challenge or something to be dealt with alone.
It is time to address menstrual wellbeing and the current failings in raising awareness, providing education, and supporting menstrual management.
We must acknowledge that menstruation is an equal opportunity issue, which needs a comprehensive systemic response in education, employment, wellbeing, and health policy.
Evidence suggests that positive experiences of menstruation come from having access to high quality information, appropriate infrastructure, and resources to support menstrual hygiene.
In this way, we can reduce menstrual taboos and stigma and provide far-reaching benefits that include increased confidence, higher educational attainment, and ultimately, improved quality of life.
|“As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance.” (Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela)|
|“In a society as rich as Scotland’s 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 menstruates, regardless of their income.” (Scottish Communities Secretary, Aileen Campbell)|
Examples of some places around the world where they are getting it right, or starting to make headway:
Scotland, United Kingdom
In November 2020, Scotland became the first country to make period products free for all who need them.
The Scottish Parliament passed the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill that allows anyone who needs period products to get them free of charge.
It aims to reduce period poverty and the effects of stigma attached to menstruation.
The products will be made available in all educational and other public institutions, such as pharmacies and community centres.
It is estimated the scheme will cost around 24 million pounds per year (AU$44 million).
|“This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates.” (Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who introduced the Bill)|
In July 2020, the South African Government made free sanitary products available to vulnerable women and girls in poor communities.
The South African Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disability, has developed an integrated framework to provide sanitary products to ensure that every girl and woman has the opportunity to manage menstruation in a knowledgeable, safe and dignified manner.
The Sanitary Dignity Framework also committed to the provision of clean and reliable supply of water and access to clean, safe toilets with toilet paper, and somewhere to dispose safely of used products. It also provided for education on sanitary dignity to include men and boys, families, communities and community leaders, via the education curriculum and awareness campaigns.
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
The Total Access to Menstrual Products Act requires that all female-designated bathrooms in the state of New York provide feminine hygiene products at no cost.
Other legislation has already mandated that menstrual products are freely available in public schools, homeless shelters, and prisons.
Hobart City Council is partnering with Share the Dignity to provide free menstrual products. Known as #pinkbox, the free vending machine is installed in a public place that is convenient and safe, has high visitation, and is regularly used by young people and people experiencing homelessness.
The City of Melbourne is piloting the provision of free menstrual products in a number of its public facilities from 10 September 2021.The sites include public changing rooms, recreation centres, swimming pools, community centres and libraries.
Under Indonesian labour laws, since 2003, female workers who feel pain during their menstrual period are not obliged to go to work on the first and second day of their period.
Eliminating Period Poverty: Relevant International Agreements and the Sustainable Development Goals