A recent report from the Department of Health in collaboration with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, and Youth has found that 53,000 – 85,000 women and girls are at risk of period poverty in the Republic of Ireland. This report only asserts the findings of the 2018 Plan International report finding that 50% of young girls have experienced issues around the affordability of period products as well as 61% missing school as a result of their period.
While period poverty may often be overlooked, these figures show the reality that those who menstruate face when it comes to that time of the month. We can see from the report that this is often an issue among many, with it more likely to affect those who are in Direct Provision, are homeless or are suffering from addiction. It also disproportionately affects one parent families and victims of domestic and gender based violence. In the government report, it is estimated that the cost of managing a period annually can be anywhere between €121 -€227; this is a huge cost for working class people who menstruate.
Government’s response to period poverty has been to not charge VAT on ‘traditional’ period products – tampons and pads, but VAT is still charged on any new period products such as menstrual cups and period underwear which makes them even more inaccessible to the working class and those in vulnerable groups. Period products and pain relief should be supplied for free to anyone who needs them through the health service; this would not only reduce the cost of menstruating but also the stigma around it.