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Wallonia to distribute free menstrual products to combat period poverty

14:21 07/03/2022

The Walloon government has budgeted €440,000 for the distribution of free menstrual products for women in vulnerable situations, including those living in poverty. 

Walloon Minister of Health and Women's Rights Christie Morreale (PS) announced the initiative on Twitter, adding that it would focus on people living in the provinces of Liège, Namur and Hainaut. 

“Wallonia is launching a vast pilot project to combat menstrual insecurity. From April, 2.5m sanitary pads will be made available to women in precarious situations,” Morreale said.

The products will be distributed in places in Wallonia that assist vulnerable people, such as shelters, medical facilities and family planning centres. The exact list of locations is still being finalised. 

In addition to menstrual products, women will also receive information brochures on menstrual health, and various awareness-raising campaigns will be launched under the grant. 

Growing awareness of period poverty

Menstrual or period poverty refers to circumstances in which women and girls are unable to afford sanitary products like pads and tampons. 

“Menstrual poverty remains a taboo today and a reality for many girls and women. On average, a woman has to spend €10 to €12 a month linked to her period, or €120 to €144 a year,” Morreale said, just two days before the International Women's Rights Day on 8 March.

For many women or families in a vulnerable position, this often means having to choose between menstrual products or food, when both are basic needs.

The issue has received more attention in recent years after Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free menstrual products to all women, regardless of their financial or social circumstances. 

In Belgium last year, BruZelle, a Brussels-based organisation that fights menstrual poverty, won a De Standaard Solidariteitsprijs for its efforts. At the end of 2021, Belgium’s Federal Minister for Combatting Poverty Karine Lalieux (PS) also announced that she would set aside €200,000 for free menstrual products. 

A recent survey of 2,600 respondents showed that one out of eight women in Flanders between the ages of 12 and 25 sometimes lack enough money to buy menstrual products, a number that rises to nearly one in two for girls living in poverty.

 

Written by Helen Lyons