For the photo, Cybille Latour first moved one black box, then the other, to a lighter spot in the hall. For example, packages of sanitary towels, tampons, menstrual cups, and corona self-examinations can be seen better. They are usually on a flower rug on the refrigerator in the corner, out of sight of the windows of this former primary school in the Utrecht district of Auverfacht.
Women and girls can get stuff here for free. Latour estimates that one box goes through a week. “I topped it yesterday, and there is already a lot. The door is open, a woman can come in here and put something in her bag and leave without being seen.”
Latour provides one of the Poverty Fund’s “menstrual release points”. She was one of the first to start this distribution point over a year ago, but things have gone really fast since then. The Thousand Point of Holland opened this week, also by chance in this area.
Old rags or toilet paper instead of sanitary towels
Latour says many women are ashamed of not being able to purchase period supplies. According to her, this is because other people often do not understand this very much. They think: “Such a cheap product.” But that one euro could be too much. If you need it to feed your kids, use it for that instead of using it yourself. And so women use old rags or toilet paper. Or about those cleaning wipes, you’ve heard that, too.”
Estimates of the cost of the menstrual cycle vary. The Libresse spokesperson assumes around €4 per month for 1.5 packs of sanitary pads, and around €50 per year – depending on the severity of your period. In a question about the minimum wage in Amsterdam, previously feminist platform De Bovengrondse averaged 7.90 euros per month, including painkiller costs.
63,000 women use dispensing points
The Poverty Fund believes that hundreds of thousands of women and girls across the country find it difficult to pay for menstrual products. With current points, the fund serves about 63,000 women and girls. The fund wants to open another 1,000 points next year to reach more women. These points are often found in food and clothing banks, in schools or in social institutions.
Given the price hikes in recent months, Latour expects a larger group of women to find their way to her point of view. In the old school – which she uses anti-squats – she also has her own food bank as well as a corner with period products. They also offer courses. She knows the neighborhood well. “Everywhere I go, I make the point.”
The women who use it come from diverse cultural backgrounds. Most of them live on the benefits. “But there is also someone who works in a supermarket, and they have a hard time knitting that place,” Latour says.
What do you really think this point is necessary? “Honestly?” She asks, pausing for a moment. “Scandal! This is something every woman needs, from a girl to menopause. This is a very big expense. This should be freely available.”
Scotland offers sanitary pads and tampons for free
Other countries do this. The UK distributes free sanitary pads and tampons through secondary education. Scotland also offers the material in other public places, for all the women who can’t afford it. France provides materials in universities. In the Netherlands, an online petition to include menstrual products in a basic health insurance package has been signed more than 4,000 times this year.
Defending the position of women, Women Inc. believes that offering menstrual products should not be a private initiative, but a governmental task. Spokesperson Cecile Wansink says this should benefit all women. Even if there is no poverty in the Netherlands, she believes that it is still a source of inequality that part of the population with wombs buy menstrual materials, and the other half do not.
32 municipalities pay now
Where the national government does not intervene, 32 municipalities are now doing so. They pay for supplies to release points within their borders. For other points, the Poverty Fund is based on donations of materials by individuals or companies, or financial donations.
“It’s a very twofold feeling,” says Henk de Graaf of the poverty fund manager. “What we do is sticky tapes. I would prefer that this not be necessary, and that every girl and every woman can go to the store.”
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