Half of Irish girls aged 12-19 say they struggle to afford sanitary products.
Over the past few years, many eyes have been opened to the issue of ‘period poverty’. The term refers to people being forced to go without sanitary products in order to afford other essentials, relying on other ways to deal with their periods.
It’s a grim reality for many in Ireland – a recent survey from Plan International found that half of Irish girls aged 12-19 are struggling to afford sanitary products. However, new initiatives from county councils are helping to combat this issue.
Last night, Labour councillor Deirdre Kingston secured funding for Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to provide free sanitary products in two council-owned libraries. Speaking after the budget meeting, Cllr Kingston said:
Many women have no choice but to go without if their weekly budget is already stretched. This is even more pronounced for women in homeless accommodation or in direct provision centres. Much of the time [this issue] can be met with sniggers but it is not a laughing matter.
“It is far from funny when girls are missing school on a monthly basis because they can’t afford products,” she continued. “Or when a homeless woman is stripped of her dignity because she cannot afford sanitary pads or tampons.”
My motion to progress a pilot scheme to provide free sanitary products in public libraries passed during the DLR Budget meeting tonight. Hope this can extend to all public buildings in our county over time #periodpoverty @HomelessPeriodD pic.twitter.com/FIYd1EFLQp
— Cllr Deirdre Kingston (@deirdrekingston) November 6, 2018
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown is the second county council to make this decision – in September, Dublin City Council backed a proposal from Labour councillor Rebecca Moynihan, agreeing to provide free sanitary products in all council-owned libraries, swimming pools, and community centres. At the time, Moynihan noted that while tampons and pads are essential items, many are priced as if they are “luxury goods”.
The news is very welcome, as until now it has been mostly down to volunteers to give people in need access to basic essentials.
Homeless Period Ireland was set up by Petra Hanlon in 2016 to collect sanitary products for low-income and homeless people in Dublin – the organisation has since partnered with businesses all across Ireland to set up drop off points for donations, which are then passed on to homeless charities, direct provision centres and food banks for distribution.
They do hugely important work, but they need the government to ease their burden. And it can be done: The Scottish government has launched a pilot scheme to give sanitary products to people in need in Aberdeen, with a view to rolling it out nationally.
Cllr Kingston said she hopes that in time, free sanitary products can be stocked in all public buildings in Ireland. For the 50% of Irish girls wondering how to afford a box of tampons this month, let’s hope that’s sooner rather than later.