In a recent report, the Government estimated that women spend €121 a year on products to deal with menstruation. The average Irish woman lives to the grand old age of 82.8 these days, so that means that we spend around €4840 on period products in our lifetime, estimating 40 years of menstruating.
For Dublin woman Claire Hunt, providing women in need with sanitaryware has become a passion. A film called 'I, Daniel Blake' inspired Hunt to start an organisation called The Homeless Period Dublin. "There is a scene in it where a girl is caught shoplifting a box of tampons or pads and it was so confronting that I couldn't stop thinking about it," she explains while welcoming her two daughters 9 and 10 home from school. Claire has teamed up with Lidl Ireland for an initiative to provide women in need all over the country with free period products from today.
It is the first major retailer in the world to offer free period products in stores nationwide to combat period poverty. The products can be redeemed via a coupon downloaded to the Lidl app, but the retailer will also be distributing product through local LGFA clubs and Simon Communities in order to reach those women who do not have access to a phone or wifi.
"I think, what stands out to me is that this impacts lots of women that we might not be aware of." Hunt explains. "We are talking about women in direct provision, women who have to frequent domestic abuse refuges or homeless women obviously, but I would also definitely seen an increase of women in need over the last year because of Covid and everything else going on. It's quite a hidden issue."
The best named symposium, inspired by @judyblume “Are you there law? It’s me, Menstruation” needs to be a yearly event, Dublin next year anyone? @ProfMEJohnson1 @ColumbiaJGL @Totorointhetree @JennaRaeLauter @kit_johnson @egwaldman @jweisswolf #areyoutherelaw #menstrualequity 🩸 pic.twitter.com/zmDHZcyIxt— HomelessPeriod_Ireland (@HomelessPeriodD) April 9, 2021
It's a major step towards a better life for lots of women out there who can't afford to purchase period products each month, and despite what you might think - there are a lot.
In February the Period Poverty in Ireland Report exposed some of the unavoidable costs incurred by being a woman.
For example, it estimated that the annual costs of period products per woman stood at €96.72. Add in some pain relief, and you are looking at a minimum of €121 per year. This, points out Hunt, is a very rough estimation. "All of our periods are different right, and all of our cycles are different for people. Every month we have different ones based on what is going on with us, so you might use two boxes of pads every month, and I might use a completely different amount. I really don't think it's something that you put a price on."
It costs more to be a woman than to be a man. In retail circles, there is a price increase called a pink tax - it means that personal hygiene products aimed at women cost more. A quick skim on an Irish supermarket website this morning showed that a Gilette Fusion Power razor aimed at a male buyer came with eight razor refills was available to buy for €15.99. A Gillette Venus Smooth razor aimed at a female buyer came with three razor refills and was available to buy for €20.22.
It happens with perfume too. You can pay almost €20 more for your lady's eau de parfum compared to the male version. On an Irish website today, you can buy 50ml of Dolce & Gabanna Light Blue Blue Eau de Toilette aimed at women for €74 and 50ml of the same fragrance aimed at men for €66.
The same month as our Period Poverty in Ireland Report was welcomed by Stephen Donnelly, Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern declared that all schools there will offer free period products from June, as part of efforts to stamp out period poverty.
"Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population."
Let's hope that Claire Hunt's initiative with Lidl is the beginning of women recouping a small part of the financial impact befallen on them because of their sex.
Find out more about The Homeless Period here.