In 2019, Camila, Anneloes and Tammy began the Dignity Kits project. We packed Kits while sprawled across our living rooms, and stored period and hygiene products in the hallways of our homes, to sometimes awkward effect. And we delivered them, starting with 15 Kits every month. Over time, we provided menstrual and hygiene products to increasing numbers of people; by the end of last year, we were delivering 200 Dignity Kits per month. These Dignity Kits have been part of our overall goal to end period poverty in Amsterdam.
While we realize this is not a small goal, it is the right goal: accessing a healthy menstruation is a basic human right. However, this goal cannot be achieved by providing products alone. For this reason, over the past two years, we’ve been working (mostly behind the scenes) to get period poverty on the municipality’s agenda. By late last year, momentum was clearly building. We worked with various members of district committees who successfully introduced and passed motions to address period poverty in a majority of Amsterdam districts. The October publication of our quantitative research was another push: the period poverty proposal we helped shape was submitted to the Amsterdam city council in November. Period poverty was also addressed at a national level in the House of Representatives in December, with the passage of a bill and funding to meet some of the greatest need.
We hope these shifts will lead to the government ensuring that menstrual products are available for all those who need them. As we’ve said before, however, we’re not there yet. The Amsterdam proposal, passed in March, still needs to be developed and finalized as a city initiative. Last November, EUR 50.000 was approved by the city council to help those most in need now. But the 2024 budget for the full municipal period poverty initiative will still need to be set this fall.
These first shifts are very promising but also very necessary. As indicated in our 2022 research, the need for period products is growing; period poverty is expected to continue increasing in 2023.
Between our Kits and Menstruation Stations, we have been supporting over 800 people per month in Amsterdam. That’s certainly a change from those early 15 Kits! Given the growing need and municipal steps being taken, we decided to sharpen our period poverty actions: going forward we will only provide period products, and no longer any other toiletries or care products. Doing so will enable us to serve a larger number of people.
Practically speaking, this does mean saying goodbye to our Dignity Kits. We have been slowly phasing out the Dignity Kits project this year, with the last Kits scheduled to be delivered this month. To be clear: after this month we’ll still bring pads, tampons, and other menstrual products to all the locations that have been receiving Dignity Kits. Donations have and will continue to help more people through our expanding number of Menstruation Stations around the city.
Even developments that are overall positive can pinch at the heart, however. Dignity Kits were our very first action as Neighborhood Feminists. They are the way many have gotten to know us. They directly helped people, but also clearly showed the unmet need in Amsterdam. In this way, Dignity Kits helped build awareness of period poverty as well as the hurdles undocumented, homeless and other at-risk people face in our city.
Dignity Kits show what can happen with persistence, donations large and small. and volunteers (who were either packing Kits or busy calling for more support online–and sometimes doing both!). Dignity Kits are proof that we as individuals can come together and bring timely, needed help to others. They are proof we can bring change to neighborhoods across our city.
The work continues, but we thank every single person and organization for donating either funds or time and energy (and sometimes both!) to help get Dignity Kits to some of those most in need over the past three years. And an extra special thank you to our committed team and volunteers who helped this project continue to expand.
In total, by the end of this month, we will have delivered over 3.500 Dignity Kits. In a city as large as ours, that number may seem modest, but each Kit made a significant, real difference to the person receiving it.
Beyond direct action, there’s general public awareness. We also want to thank everyone who, through Dignity Kits, helped spread awareness about period poverty, whether by bringing it up in a podcast, a newspaper article, at school, or by simply talking about it with their friends, family, neighbors or colleagues.
The work continues. Onward!