Dutch breakthrough in providing free menstrual pads and tampons. Now also offer sustainable choice
It was great news last week in the Netherlands: a majority of the House of Representatives expressed its support for the motion of D66 MP Hülya Kat and Volt MP Marieke Koekkoek to make menstrual pads and tampons free for people with a low income. Even better news: Carola Schouten, Minister for Poverty Policy, expressed her support for the proposal.
Last year, development organisation Simavi drew attention to the worldwide problem of inequality as a result of menstruation with a petition signed by more than 14,000 people. Menstrual poverty is also an issue in the Netherlands: research indicates that 1 in 10 people who menstruate in the Netherlands have no money for menstrual products. In Amsterdam, recent research showed that 27 percent of people who menstruate at some point last year weren’t able to pay for menstrual articles.
Last year, in response to a motion by MPs Marieke Koekkoek and Chris Stoffer, the Dutch government promised to promote menstrual health worldwide. The proposal that has been adopted last week is an important step in tackling menstrual poverty in the Netherlands. We would like to take this opportunity to make two important recommendations to the government.
Environmentally friendly menstrual products
First of all, it would be good to give women the opportunity to also opt for more sustainable menstrual products, such as the menstrual cup, reusable menstrual pads and underwear. Especially in a country like the Netherlands where clean water is readily available, the menstrual cup is a suitable alternative to tampons and menstrual pads. And very important: 99 percent more environmentally friendly than disposable menstrual products.
Menstrual health worldwide
The second recommendation to the cabinet is to step up its game promoting menstrual health internationally. In the policy memorandum published by Minister Liesje Schreinemacher last summer, insufficient attention was paid to the fact that menstrual poverty leads to great inequality in many countries. As Simavi, we have gained a lot of international experience with reusable and therefore relatively environmentally friendly menstrual pads and menstrual underwear. As a relative forerunner in this field, the Netherlands will soon be able to raise this theme with even more force. In our campaign we called it a bloody important message. And it still is.
Femke van Heun, menstrual health specialist at Simavi