"The current Welfare Officer, Úna Carroll, said in a statement that “providing free menstrual products is as important, if not more, as providing condoms and lube, because despite the overwhelming need for these products they are not essential products like menstrual pads and tampons are.” "
In an effort to combat “period poverty”, the Department of Education has launched a scheme to provide free period products to state schools and colleges in the UK. The scheme will “give pupils easy access to period products at school or college”, address stigma surrounding menstruation and raise awareness about it.
Michelle Donelan, the minister for children and families said that: “We know that it is not easy for everyone to access period products where and when they need them. This scheme will deal with those problems so young people can go about their daily lives without getting caught out.”
Period poverty is defined by Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly on www.oireachtas.ie as ‘the inability to afford female sanitary products’. Deputy Daly also recognises the situation as “an internationally recognised health and social issue”.
In UCD, the Students’ Union offices provide period products ready to be taken and used by whoever needs them. The current Welfare Officer, Úna Carroll, said in a statement that “providing free menstrual products is as important, if not more, as providing condoms and lube, because despite the overwhelming need for these products they are not essential products like menstrual pads and tampons are.” Scotland has been distributing products throughout schools and colleges since 2018. Wales has been distributing period products in schools and colleges too since 2019.
A study conducted by Plan International in 2018 found that half of girls aged between 12 and 19 are struggling to afford sanitary products. Shame, embarrassment and lack of income can all lead to ‘period poverty’. The survey also found that 80% of women and girls said that they felt uncomfortable broaching the topic with their teacher, and even their own fathers. Welfare Officer, Úna Carroll, added that “we need more education on menstruation and menstrual disorders, as well as less stigma around periods and period products in general.”
The Homeless Period Ireland - previously known as Homeless Period Dublin, before current manager, Claire Hunt, decided to expand the organisation nationally - is an NGO that was established in 2016 to help alleviate period poverty. Hunt stands firm that HPI is an initiative, and a temporary one. HPI helps women living in poverty to gain access to period products by relying on towel and tampon donations from the public, with collection points set up all over the country. She believes that legislation and free period products are the solution to ending period poverty. In UCD, there are twelve collection points on campus for HPI. The mantra that they are trying to establish is, if you’re buying period products, buy two packs; one for yourself, and one to donate.
In September 2019, Dublin County Council announced that it would be investing €100,000 into providing sanitary products in council buildings such as swimming pools and libraries. However, the National Health Service (NHS) already offers free period products to those who ask for them.
When asked about schools and colleges providing period products as standard, many young women supported and even praised the idea. Ellen O’Neill, a second year science student said: “I think it’s a great idea! It should be implemented in all schools and colleges because it’s an unfair, additional expenditure that female students, who are already on a tight budget, have to save for.” Leah Sankaran, also a second year science student, suggested that menstrual cups be distributed to combat period poverty, because they are reusable and can last up to 10 years.