“Period poverty affects women, girls and people who menstruate all over the world. Access to menstrual products, safe, hygienic spaces in which to use them, and the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma, is essential for anyone who menstruates. But for many, this is not a reality. This is not just a potential health risk - it can also mean girls' education, well-being, and sometimes entire lives are affected”.
According to Plan International, 50% of girls have difficulties paying for period products. 61% of them missed class over their period. They have also stated that 55% of girls find it embarrassing to talk about their periods. For students who are in similar circumstances, alleviating the financial burden, stigma and other negative associations with their period can be significantly advanced by provision of products on campus through free vending machines.
In 2019, according to CSO figures, 17.8% of people were living in enforced deprivation in Ireland, with women more likely to experience enforced deprivation. It is estimated that Irish women and girls spend an average of €132 every year on tampons and sanitary towels.
Using period products for longer time than is recommended, or using unsuitable alternatives, can lead to infections and health issues. Women, girls, and trans people may feel they have no choice but to miss out on educational activities, work, or recreation due to not having appropriate products. Period poverty can interfere with access to education for young women. This is particularly relevant for younger women and teenagers who may not have access to their own incomes. Ultimately, there remains a stigma associated with periods (and indeed all health issues affecting menstruation). Poor cultural understanding, education and tormenting from peers around the issue of periods leads to shame and embarrassment for young people who need access to proper products (MTU:2021).
Following the support for a motion tabled by the Irish Parliamentary Women’s Caucus in 2019 to alleviate period poverty in Ireland, a cross-departmental sub-committee on Period Poverty was established and published a report in 2021. The Programme for Government 2020, makes the following specific commitment under ‘Better Opportunities through Education and Research’ - “Provide a range of free, adequate, safe, and suitable period products in all educational publicly-funded settings (including schools, colleges and HEIs), to ensure that no students are disadvantaged in their education by period poverty.” Whilst planning towards this goal continues, UCD can demonstrate leadership with colleagues in MTU and other HEIs providing products. In 2021, the Scottish Parliament passed a bill to provide free period products to those in need. This now places a legal duty to make period products available throughout Scotland to all those who need them, with schools identified for initial rollout (MTU:2021).