Free menstrual products are being offered in six secondary schools in the Brussels via distribution machines in a bid to tackle menstrual poverty.
Menstruating costs, on average, 12 euros per cycle. The cost of menstrual products has long been the subject of debate, especially regarding period poverty, when an individual does not have proper money to purchase products such as sanitary pads, tampons or period cups.
Scotland turned out to be the first nation in the world to make menstrual products free with a law that obliges educational institutions and local authorities to offer menstrual products for free. The Brussels is following its example, starting in secondary schools.
“Menstrual products are recognised as basic necessities in Belgium, but in practice, they remain expensive,” Ans Persoons, Councillor for Dutch-language Education in the City of Brussels.
“Not all our pupils have enough money to buy them every month. This can be accompanied by stress and embarrassment. By offering free menstrual products at school, we ensure that pupils do not have to worry about this in the first place,” she added.
In several cases, one in eight girls and women between age group of 12 and 25 do not have enough money to buy period products, a figure that has jumped to 45% among those living in poverty, a study by Caritas Flanders hass shown.
Some borrow tampons and pads from friends, others go on their own with homemade alternatives, which increases the risk of infections. Some girls stay home from school.
The need for free period products was also highlighted by the increase in the number of packages distributed by organisations like BruZelle, which collects period products to be distributed anonymously.