The federal government has committed €200,000 for two women’s organisations to help fight the problem of what is known as period poverty – women and girls who are too poor to pay for tampons and other sanitary products.
The grant was announced by Karine Lalieux (PS), minister for the fight against poverty, and the grant will be split equally between the Vrouwenraad (Women’s Council) and the Conseil des femmes francophones (Council of French-speaking Women).
All women menstruate equally, with the exception of pregnant, nursing and menopausal women, but not all are equally able to pay for commercially-available sanitary products. The government has cut VAT on such products, but the difficulty remains for many.
That, according to Lalieux’s office, “leads to discriminatory social injustice for women and girls, with serious consequences such as dropping out of school, absenteeism at work, health problems and so on.”
“A woman will have her period on average 500 times during her life,” the minister said. “This affects half of the population, and we know that women are also the most vulnerable to the risk of poverty.”
Earlier this month, the Flemish opposition called on the regional government to make sanitary products freely available in schools, pointing out that schoolgirls have less economic autonomy than their mothers, who may also be suffering from period poverty.
“It is estimated that 45% of Flemish students who struggle to make ends meet at home sometimes do not have the money for sanitary towels and tampons,” said member of parliament Celia Groothedde (Groen). “This illustrates how badly our poverty policy is failing.”
The opposition was responding to the news from November that the government in Scotland had voted to make all sanitary products for women free in all circumstances.