We zijn weer een stap verder! Achter de schermen hebben we hard gewerkt om menstruatiearmoede in heel Amsterdam op de agenda te krijgen. Afgelopen dinsdag heeft Iris Pauw (GroenLinks) een motie ingediend in de stadsdeelcommissie van Amsterdam West, waarin ze het dagelijks bestuur van het stadsdeel oproept om menstruatiearmoede in West concreet aan te pakken. We hebben met Iris samengewerkt aan deze motie en zijn er dan ook heel erg blij mee dat de motie, na levendige discussie, unaniem is aangenomen! Je kunt de volledige video van Iris’ geweldige speech hieronder bekijken, of haar speech teruglezen. Als je echt geïnteresseerd bent, kun je hier zelfs de hele stadsdeelraadvergadering bekijken, de discussie begint rond 3:38. Op naar het volgende stadsdeel!


Speech introducing unsolicited counsel on period poverty, Iris Pauw (GroenLinks)

To menstruate in a safe and hygienic way – in other words, with dignity – is a basic need and a human right. Unfortunately, for many residents of Amsterdam, this is not a reality. 

Period poverty entails not having the means to menstruate in a safe and hygienic way. This can mean lacking the financial means for the needed pads or tampons. Or lacking access to a space to safely and privately change their menstrual product. Or simply lack an understanding of what is necessary to maintain adequate menstrual health. Period poverty directly impacts gender equality, as well as the health and freedom of choice of somebody who is menstruating. 

Research done by Plan International shows that 4 in 10 respondents have sometimes had to stay at home due to their period, instead of going to school or work. Because of this, a group of people, mostly women and girls, end up being excluded from full participation in society. In this way, period poverty increases the gender gap in education and at work. As a result, a group already living in precarity becomes even more vulnerable. Moreover, incorrect usage of menstruation products can lead to serious health conditions, such as Toxic Shock Syndrome, a serious health issue that can be caused by leaving a tampon in for too long. Limited knowledge on menstruation can also lead people to ask for needed support with their health issues too late, or even not at all, because they assume “pain is part of it”. Lastly, menstruation poverty limits freedom of choice for those who menstruate. Menstruation and the way in which you address it is a very personal choice. Products such as tampons or cups which have to be inserted are not an acceptable choice for everybody. To be clear, poverty should never lead people to feel forced to make a decision that negatively affects their bodily integrity. 

Using 2020 data, it is estimated that some 26.000 Amsterdam residents deal with menstruation poverty. The actual figure is probably much higher. Previous research has not been inclusive enough in terms of gender diversity – not all people who menstruate are women – while vulnerable groups such as homeless people are difficult to reach. Moreover, the amount of people living on or below the poverty line has increased significantly in the past 2,5 years. That tide will probably not be turning anytime soon. The financial consequences of the pandemic, the housing crisis, and the energy crisis affect not only those living on or below the poverty line but also other people, such as self-employed workers and students.

Poverty is a serious issue, also in the district of Amsterdam West. I am assuming you are all familiar with the numbers, but I’ll take this opportunity to refresh your memory. According to the most recent numbers, the share of low income households is 17 percent in the West of Amsterdam, which is only one percent less than in the New-West district of Amsterdam, which is the poorest of the three poorest city districts, with the highest number of low income households. These figures confirm that the systemic issue of poverty in the West of Amsterdam requires our serious attention. In this context, we are grateful to the portfolio manager for her ongoing attention to the topic.

By including the fight against menstruation poverty within the larger program of poverty reduction, we can as a city district concretely minimize the impact of poverty on people. Our advice is focused on three pillars:

1. Free products

2. Safe sanitary facilities

3. Education

Facilitating free products offers a direct solution for those who may not have money for menstrual products at a given moment. I have already  mentioned homeless and undocumented people. To fully support this group, it is very important not only to provide free products, but also to ensure that there are spaces available where products can be changed in a safe manner. Finally, providing better information is very important to increase knowledge about menstruation and to help break stigmas and taboos around this theme. While executing this advice, we would encourage taking into account the best practices of existing organisations, such as the Armoedefonds and the Neighborhood Feminists foundation.

Once again, being able to safely and hygienically menstruate is a fundamental need. Menstruation continues, regardless of pandemics or energy crises. And no one should ever have to choose between food or pads. Therefore, we sincerely hope that you will vote ‘yes’ to this counsel.