How to use your vote against Period Poverty

Period poverty is one of those subjects that pops up as a hot topic once every couple of months or so. And that’s a good thing, as one in nine menstruating people in the Netherlands between ages 12 to 25 sometimes don’t have enough money for period products, according to a research conducted by de Bovengrondse in 2019. Luckily, there are many things that could be done, even in the voting booth!

What is period poverty?

Period poverty is when someone who menstruates doesn’t have the means to deal with their period in a hygienic and comfortable manner. There are several things that might contribute to this problem. When you don’t have money to spare for tampons or pads, you’ll have to make do with toilet paper or old rags, or reuse your products, all of which could pose health risks. People might have to stay home from school or work. This of course only perpetuates the problem.

Of course, the taboo surrounding periods does not help either. A survey under the name of #bloedserieus found that one in five respondents would rather not talk about their periods, and nearly half feel dirty during their period. In fact, 19% find buying menstrual products embarrassing. If you take into account the shame surrounding poverty as well, it’ll make it extremely difficult for many people to ask for help when they suffer from period poverty.

What can we do?

One way to address period poverty, is by applying a menstrual leave. However, there are many downsides to using just this tactic to combat period poverty. If you have to stay home from school for several days every month because of your period, you can run up a considerable learning gap. Moreover, it is difficult to take advantage of this leave if you are ashamed of your period.

A second solution is to offer period products for free or at least make them cheaper, for example through lower btw. Free tampons and pads could be distributed to in public places, such as government buildings and schools. It might be a little annoying to have to go to the library every time you have your period, but it’s a lot more pleasant than having to put old newspapers in your pants. Especially in schools this offers a solution. If pads and tampons are available for free, no one would have to miss school, and if periods are a difficult topic at home, it can be avoided this way.

The last and perhaps the most important way of ending period poverty, is to make periods more discussable. Due to shame, menstrual problems – both health problems and lack of products – often remain under the radar. More and better education about periods and period poverty can ensure that this problem is understood more thoroughly, and people might feel less shame for asking for help. Only this way period poverty can substantially combatted.

What is happening already?

Fortunately, menstrual poverty is increasingly discussed all over the world, and in some places something is actually being done about it. Some examples:

  • In Scotland period products have been available for free in schools since 2018, and since an unanimously supported bill in 2020, they have become the first country in the world where all women are entitled to free tampons and pads.
  • Last week, it was announced that tampon dispensers will be installed in all French universities
  • From June this year period products will be distributed for free in all schools in New Zealand.
  • Since January 1, you no longer pay taxes on your menstrual products in the UK, which also includes reusable products.
  • In Ethiopia, where 75% have no access to adequate products, and periods are extremely taboo, a law was passed that would drastically reduce the taxes for the femcare industry.

In the Netherlands, the topic is still in its infancy, but it is growing more relevant each day. The VU is the first Dutch university to offer free tampons to its students, with many to follow. At Yoni we regularly receive invitations to participate in initiatives to offer free products in schools, or to make periods more discussable.

Your vote!

In a few days we’ll go back to the voting booth. After reading about this topic, you may want to include the parties’ stances on period poverty in your consideration. We got you! We researched what each party program has to say about this, so you won’t have to.

Only three parties have included something about periods in their party program: GroenLinks, Bij1 and (surprisingly!) BoerBurgerBeweging.

  • GroenLinks wants to offer period products free of charge at schools and government buildings. This makes them the only party that has clearly planned this, and felt it was important enough to include in their program.
  • BIJ1 wants to implement a period leave. They especially want to introduce the leave because periods can be a huge nuisance in other aspects of daily life, which might influence the chances of people who menstruate.
  • BoerBurgerBeweging has used their answers to the statements of an old version of the StemWijzer. This included a question about making periods products available for free, to which they answered that they thought this was a good idea.
  • PvdA says that they find it ridiculous that there are no free period products available yet. Although they have not included this in the party program, this is a subject that is very dear to Liliane Ploumen, and she has been one of the leading voices in politics against this issue.
  • Both PvdD and D66 say they have not put anything about the subject in their party program, but will vote for any bill to make period products free of charge.

Are you going to let your political party’s position on period poverty play a role in your choice on March 17? Let us know!