USI will campaign for free sanitary products in colleges

Niamh Quinlan

The Students Union of Ireland (USI) proposed a motion campaign for free sanitary products for students.

The Union voted to pursue the motion put forward by USI Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship, Megan Reilly, at a national council meeting in Trinity College on November 15th.

Reilly stressed the importance of the USI taking a stance on this topic: “Quite frequently what happens is student unions end up bearing the cost, because they, for years, have been providing sanitary products for students.”

Students of DCU are happy with the proposed campaign. “I think it’s a great idea,” said one female student. “It’s one pressure taken off girls.”

In October of this year, a committee chaired by the Department of Health was set up to try and tackle period poverty. One of the motions pushed by the Oireachtas to the committee and the government was to provide free sanitary products in public buildings.

“When you go into a public bathroom anywhere, you don’t have to pay for the toilet roll and you don’t have to pay for the soap,” said Reilly. “And sanitary products are a complete necessity, so why are we being charged for them?”

The Irish Times found that, on average, women would spend an estimated €132.34 per year.

A USI national council report found that people “will spend an average of €8100 in a lifetime on sanitary products.”

A survey by Plan International Ireland in 2018 found that 50% of Irish women and girls between the ages of 12-19 struggled to afford sanitary products.

The survey was conducted with 1,100 women and girls and also found that 109 of them were forced to use a form of “less suitable sanitary product” because of the current prices of period products in Ireland.

Earlier this year, the UK voted to provide free sanitary products to primary schools from 2020 and have been providing them to secondary schools and colleges since the beginning of this school year.

Reilly also put an emphasis on making sure sanitary products are sustainable. Currently Ireland is the only EU country to offer zero per cent tax on sanitary pads and tampons, however, the more environmentally friendly menstrual cups are taxed at 23%.

However, she also emphasised that it should be a person’s choice: “Obviously, we can’t make everyone use the sustainable products,” she said, “but you can encourage it by also making them available for free.”

Niamh Quinlan

Image Credit: Rachel Power