Free sanitary pads and tampons for all schools in central Groningen: run by Yolanda (56)

Jolanda Ost, 56, from Groningen had never heard of PMS until I read an article about it at the end of 2019. “I was very shocked by it,” she says. “Isn’t it strange that girls and women don’t have enough money to buy these products?”

In Scotland, period products are free from this week. Yolanda says that in the Netherlands, too, more attention should be paid to menstrual poverty. So she set out to work on her own.

dead avenue

She created a Facebook page called “Bloedserieus Midden-Groningen”. Then I reached out to local entrepreneurs and the Hogesand-Sapmir Medical Center. “I bought five baskets from Action and asked if I could put them in their stores,” Jolanda says. She then appealed to shoppers to donate menstrual products in baskets via her Facebook page and local press.

The campaign was a huge success. For months, Jolanda used her spare time to bypass all the stores with big bags and pick up produce. She then donated the proceeds to a local food bank. “There was a shortage of these kinds of products,” she says.

Not important, according to the minister

When stores closed due to Corona, Jolanda was no longer able to do her weekly tour. I’ve Googled before to see if anything is being done about PMS in politics, she says. “Parliamentary questions were already asked at the time, but the minister dismissed the problem as unimportant.” According to then-Minister Bruins, there was “no reason to take policy actions specifically targeting this aspect of poverty”.

“Then I thought: Politicians don’t listen when you say, ‘This happens and it’s annoying,'” Yolanda says. ‘But when you come up with specific data, they might listen to you.

Watch also

For the first time in the Netherlands

Through her work in the Department of Quality and Patient Safety at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), she reached out to the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health at the University of Groningen (RUG). With the help of the Department of Healthy Aging UMCG, which among other things conducts research into health differences in the province, Jolanda was able to pitch her research idea to the university.

The investigation came. Five students from the University of Groningen spent six months investigating the problem of menstrual poverty in the municipality of Groningen. This made it the first scientific study on menstrual poverty in the Netherlands.

Don’t talk about it

“Basically the research shows: Girls find it very difficult to point out,” Jolanda explains. “It’s hard for girls and women to say to a teacher or employer: I’m calling because I don’t have a sanitary napkin. It’s probably stomach pain, or the flu, or something else to report.”

In addition to being annoying to the girls involved, this ultimately costs society money, Jolanda explains. “In fact, you then get medical treatment – a visit to your GP or health and safety doctor – for a ‘problem’ that is not a medical problem,” she continues. “Politicians regard the provision of products for free as a cost component. But medical treatment is also a cost component.”

Watch also

Taboo between girls and boys

In addition, the study dealt with the role of schools in the problem of menstrual poverty. “They were asked if they had period products for girls. They do, but teachers pay for them out of their own pockets. So last year I actually bought products for those schools with a donation to my Bloedserieus Foundation,” Jolanda says.

You see, there is still a lot to be achieved in providing information about the menstrual cycle. “The report shows that there is little knowledge about ovulation periods and the use of menstrual products. It is taboo, not only among girls but also among boys.”

“A lot of people say there are more important things”

In any case, Jolanda has been very successful in central Groningen: starting from the next school year, all 23 primary schools, school community and youth work in central Groningen will receive menstrual products free of charge for an indefinite period of time. However, her work is not yet complete. “I think it’s an important topic, but a lot of people also think ‘What are you worried about?'” There are more important things.”

I noticed that the problem is also found elsewhere. “I sometimes hear from my stepdaughter and niece, who went to school in Heerenveen and Groningen, and are well known among the girls: those who have little money receive sanitary pads or tampons from other girls. This is of course very nice, but it is not ideal.”

Watch also

fight taboo

So Yolanda hopes that her initiative will also encourage other municipalities or universities in the country to do serious research on the matter. “I hope there will be more interest in this in general,” she says. According to Jolanda, the taboo surrounding menstruation means that menstrual poverty is sometimes overlooked as unimportant. “Maybe it’s myopic, but then I wonder: What if this problem was for men and not women? Would it be taken more seriously?”

She believes that separate educational materials in schools would be a good first step. “Not just for girls, but for boys as well.”

Leave a Comment