This month, Scotland is making history. It will offer free sanitary products to low-income girls and women.
While the pilot project is limited in its scope, its launch holds hope that other countries will recognize the vital importance of assisting women in obtaining sanitary products for both their health and dignity.
Around the world, women still experience discrimination when it comes to menstruation. This year in Nepal, a teenage girl died when she was bitten by a snake while staying in a menstruation hut for the duration of her period. Girls often stay home from school during their period for lack of access to sanitary resources; in Kenya alone, a 2011 study found that adolescent girls lost an average of 3.5 million learning days per month due to their periods.
Related: Italy Might Offer Menstruation Leave
Recognizing period poverty as an issue, the Scottish government has committed to a six-month initiative in Aberdeen — its population is just under 250,000 people.
The initiative received international attention when Equalities Secretary, Angela Constance, announced the initiative’s goals while visiting Scotland’s Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE). Business Insider reported Constance saying, “The pilot in Aberdeen is a first step to help us understand the barriers women and girls face – and help us develop a sensitive and dignified solution to making these products easily accessible to those who need them.”
The chief executive of CFINE, Dave Simmers, shared that the organization received £10,000 (nearly $13,000 U.S. dollars) to meet the period needs of 1,000 women and girls.
The Scotsman quoted Simmers saying, “We’ve been aware of this problem for many years after hearing about difficulties from women at our food banks. It’s been quite clear the cost of sanitary products are pricey at the best of times and can be exorbitant for many women who don’t have cash to spare.”
So how exactly is Scotland approaching this initiative? A variety of non-profits are working together to make it happen. The project will distribute sanitary products at three secondary schools as well as a local college in addition to setting up distribution centers at organizations working closely with women such as Women’s Aid.
Political leaders in Scotland have been leading the international charge against “period poverty”. On the political front, Monica Lennon MSP, brought the topic to debate in the Scottish Parliament, calling for Scotland to set a precedent. Additionally, the Scottish public health minister, Aileen Campbell, is hoping to make a significant difference to improve services for low income women and girls.
While it is too early to know how the program will turn out, addressing the issue of period poverty is a step in the right direction.