The Department of Health and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth have jointly launched a report which examines the prevalence and impact of period poverty in Ireland.
The report, which has been produced by the Period Poverty Sub-Committee of the National Strategy for Women and Girls Strategy Committee, estimates that 85,000 individuals across Ireland may be at risk of period poverty.
Period poverty refers to having inadequate access to menstrual hygiene including sanitary towels and tampons, washing and waste management facilities, and education.
“Most women and girls will have 12-13 periods per year with some using up to 22 tampons and/or towels per cycle. Overall annual costs of period products for individual women, including pain relief, can be estimated at a minimum of €121,” finds the report.
The remit of the Period Poverty Sub-Committee included establishing the extent of period poverty in Ireland and population cohorts most at risk.
The report recommends that the government work with other countries in the EU to remove VAT on all sanitary products including menstrual cups and period-proof underwear where in Ireland the standard rate of 23% still applies.
Other countries have introduced policies to increase the availability and affordability of sanitary products, a move which the subcommittee’s report recommends the Irish Government should take to reduce the risk of period poverty.
In England and Wales, free sanitary products are provided through the education system while in Scotland, free menstrual products are provided through local authorities.
The report acknowledges the potential adverse consequences of period poverty which can include exclusion from activities of daily living during menstruation and physical and mental impacts from both exclusion and the use of unsuitable period products.
It sets out a number of recommendations regarding strengthening the evidence base, addressing the stigma associated with periods, engaging with vulnerable groups and the voluntary sector organisations that support them, considering the provision of free period products on the grounds of gender equity, and developing a systems approach and co-ordinated funding mechanisms across Government to progress cross-sectoral mitigation of period poverty.
Roderic O’Gorman T.D., Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, said:
“The publication of this report is the beginning of a much wider conversation on this issue. I welcome the wide-ranging cross-sector recommendations in this report to strengthen the evidence base around period poverty, to address the stigma associated with periods, to normalise periods through education and to assist those high-risk groups who need it most.
“No woman, girl, intersex, trans or non-binary person who menstruates, should have to exclude themselves from the activities of daily living during menstruation or suffer the physical and mental health impacts resulting from both recurrent exclusion and the use of unsuitable period products. Government, NGOs, private individuals all have a role to play in achieving this objective. My department will work within the context of the National Strategy for Women and Girls to support the Department of Health to focus attention on this issue.”
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