Change doesn’t happen overnight, but last week’s majority city council approval of the municipal period poverty proposal was a necessary step in the right direction. 

We’ve come quite some way since our advocacy efforts began in 2020. That year, Scottish Member of Parliament Monica Lennon successfully led passage of a comprehensive period poverty bill in November 2020, the first country to do so. This development in Scotland triggered our first conversations with like-minded council members here in Amsterdam. 

Unfortunately, it was a challenge even getting the issue onto the city council radar, but we kept brainstorming with policymakers while continuing to provide period products to an increasing number of people across the city. Many policymakers simply did not share our sense of urgency. There was no real policy progress. There was also no quantitative data for Amsterdam. So late last year, together with Opinium, NF published quantitative data confirming that period poverty is a persistent, pernicious and widespread issue in Amsterdam. Our research expanded awareness and energized support within the council. In November, 5 additional parties co-signed the period poverty proposal drafted by Groenlinks and Bij1. 

Amsterdam reached last week’s milestone thanks to increasing public awareness, media attention and the time and energy of lots of people. Among many others, NF would like to once again thank Emily Dickinson and the Opinium team for the vital role these researchers had. We’d also like to recognize the efforts of the Amsterdam factions of Groenlinks (especially Milka Yemane), Bij1,  PvdA, PvdD, Denk, D66 and the party of Carla Kabamba. 

The work is far from done, however. When the proposal was first submitted for the council’s consideration last November, they approved €50000 for a pilot project to already begin helping those most in need. Now, the city will need to establish the exact scope of the city initiative (which would build on the pilot project), and they’ll need to secure enough funding for the full initiative. In the coming months, the city has the financial room and responsibility to develop the first phase of an approach that really meets people’s needs (including adequate and appropriate menstrual health education). Voting on the city’s annual budget happens every fall, so, as the pilot project develops, the municipality will be able to get a better sense of costs and intended scale to make a strong case by autumn. 

Period poverty is one type of poverty, one which happens to be a matter of public health and gender (in)equity. As with other forms of poverty, we continue to emphasize that any solution to period poverty must also include the national step of raising the minimum wage and social assistance payments, to better reflect the cost of living which continues to rise.

For now, we toast being a step closer to ensuring that everyone who menstruates in Amsterdam is able to do so in a dignified, healthy way.