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Six Brussels schools install free vending machines for sanitary products

19:23 13/10/2022

Six schools in the City of Brussels have installed vending machines to distribute sanitary products to girls free of charge.

The aim is to combat menstrual insecurity and ensure that every student has access to products such as tampons or pads without having to shell out the €12 average per month.

This amounts to roughly €144 a year, which is especially steep for girls as young as 12 who need these products on a monthly basis in order to keep attending school.

According to a survey carried out by a Flemish organisation, 12% of girls between the ages of 12-25 say they cannot afford menstrual products.

For girls living in poverty, the figure rises to 45%. Some girls use homemade substitutes instead, but this increases the risk of infection.

“Menstruation is a mental burden, a source of stress and can lead to taboos, financial difficulties or health problems,” said Faouzia Hariche, alderwoman for French-speaking public education in the City of Brussels.

“The role of the school is to focus students' attention on their learning. We have chosen, with a view to combating inequalities, to facilitate access to biological sanitary protection so that this is no longer a source of concern.”

The schools that have installed free menstrual product dispensers are the Bischoffsheim Institute, the Athénée Léon Lepage, the Institut De Mot-Couvreur, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and certain sections of the Hoofdstedelijk Instituut Anneessens Funck.

Brussels authorities estimate that a third of girls enrolled will make use of such dispensers and are therefore making a total of 25,000 menstrual products available.

If successful, the project will potentially be extended to other schools. A similar initiative had already been undertaken in German-speaking schools in early 2022.

Written by Helen Lyons