It is a fact that period products are expensive and therefore not accessible to everyone who needs them. Periodic, an organization made up of students and young professionals in the Netherlands, aims to change that. E&M-Author Antonia Frank spoke to one of Periodic’s founders Emma Hoch about period poverty and stigma, activistic and legal solutions, and her personal experiences with student activism and Periodic. Originally from Germany, Emma is in the third year of her bachelor in Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics (PPLE) at the University of Amsterdam. She is passionate about changing the world through entrepreneurship, which is also what led her to Periodic.

AF: To start with, can you tell me what period poverty is?

EH: Period poverty means that you don’t have access to period products that you would need for a healthy treatment of your menstrual cycle, for example the possibility to change your tampon every six to eight hours to avoid toxic shock syndrome.

Actually, one of the organizations that works on period poverty here in the Netherlands, ‘Neighborhood Feminists’, did a survey recently in Amsterdam, which discovered that

About 27% of people who menstruate have not been able to afford period products at least once in the last year. And for 12 to 17 year-olds, it was 70%.

So, especially young menstruators who maybe lack pocket money often don’t have the means to access period products that they need. This shows that period poverty is indeed still an issue in the Netherlands.

There is also the period stigma that comes with it. As a young menstruator, it is hard to ask for more money to buy period products or know who to talk to about periods.

And then another aspect is the accessibility of period products, because we do believe that they should be in every single bathroom, just like toilet paper. These are all areas that could be improved in the Netherlands.

AF: Can you tell me a bit more about the legal situation?

EH: I think our prime example is Scotland, where period products are mandatory for public institutions to give out to anyone who needs them. We think that a law here in the Netherlands should specifically include target schools.

Schools and educational institutions should be safe spaces for learning, which is already something that the law states. And we argue that that should also include access to menstrual products.

Research shows that menstruators have a harder time in school because they are mentally affected by the lack of access to peer products.

And it is already on the agenda in the Netherlands. The city of Amsterdam is literally right now in the process of talking about it. A policy was on the agenda at a meeting last Wednesday. However, they want to distribute period products via organizations like the Armoedefonds and Neighborhood Feminists and local neighborhood centers. That is already a step, but it is something that we do criticize, because we do think you should bring it directly to especially the young people. Especially young menstruators might be very uncomfortable with going to a neighborhood or health center.  That is why we also want to campaign a  bit more to see that schools get a funding budget to provide period products to students directly. There are also policies on the agenda in the ‘Tweede Kamer’, the Dutch parliament, to distribute period products via poverty centers and organizations, which is already very important.

AF: Could you give an overview of the other activist organizations involved in this cause?

EH: One of the biggest actors that we need to call out is the ‘Neighborhood Feminists‘, especially when it comes to the topic of period poverty because they really look at the twofold stigma we have here, not only about periods, but also about poverty and how poverty is, in general, quickly overlooked by politics or not treated in the most efficient and most beneficial way.

They are really an amazing organization here in Amsterdam, working directly on the ground in neighborhoods that have a high percentage of people with migration background and in lower income neighborhoods. They have set up these menstruation stations, where people can take period products for free, which is really amazing.

The Neighbourhood Feminists have a very holistic aspect of looking at it: from the poverty aspect, from the migration aspect, as it does affect a lot of migrants, and also from the period stigma aspect.

They have been a big actor to push it on the Amsterdam agenda, and an amazing organization that we love to work with.

Another organization that is doing great work regarding distributing period products to people in need is the Armoedefonds. They collect period products and donate them to local organizations to support people who cannot afford menstrual products in the whole country.

And then there is ‘Hi, Sally‘, which is a national organization. They work with schools to make sure that schools provide period products, but also to destigmatize the topic of menstruation through workshops and engaging people there and really targeting that school audience.

AF: You’ve already kind of touched upon that ‘Periodic’ wants to campaign for school budgets, but what else do you do? And what is the story of your organization?

EH: Periodic started in a twofold way. For one, it started with a student group in PPLE at the end of the first year. We had a seminar about solidarity, where we should come up with an intervention, which in our case was period poverty. And we liked the ideas we came up with quite a lot. So we said, okay, after the summer, we’ll sit down again, and look at what we can do. There was a lot of energy around it. And so we came together, decided that we definitely  want to look into it in our university system and we’ll see what we can implement very quickly. For example, we started the MenstruMap. It’s an easy Google Maps filter that showcases businesses and institutions which give out period products or have period products in their bathrooms.

In the meantime, I am part of the Global Youth Network, and at one of the gatherings I met Luciana. We bonded in general and then figured out that we’re both super passionate about periods and period poverty. She was also very eager to do something and already had some ideas in mind. And I thought: I have a whole group of students ready to do something and you apparently have a lot of ideas, let’s see if we can sit down and start this together. And that’s how Periodic began, with an innocent dinner and a lot of meetings that followed, where we decided on the name, branding, mission, how to sell it, etc.

And that journey especially was quite interesting, because we were then also realizing what actors were out there and figuring out our space. Because we have that goal now, but what does that mean? What do we do? We saw with ‘Neighborhood Feminists’ and ‘Hi, Sally’ that there are already initiatives out there addressing schools and for poverty. So, we rather see ourselves in the legal sphere and looking more into the political sphere, bridging that gap and amplifying the message. Because a lot of organizations are so focused on the active work that they’re doing that the messaging maybe falls short a little bit. So that’s why we came up with the MenstruWeek, our awareness week that we hosted in May around the World Menstrual Health Day, which got a lot of media attention too.

That’s where we found our sweet spot: we just want to get those voices out there and make sure that they’re heard.

That also means attending the municipality meetings, or creating an event around them and really going with the flow. What we do a lot is observing what’s happening, and then making sure we jump on that train, and amplify, and speed it up a little bit. For example, here at the University of Amsterdam, there’s already so much going on with student politics trying to implement period products, so we’re not going to meddle with it. But we are always like, hey, if you need contacts or anything else, we’re there to help.

It was very much learning by doing and it’s still a process and it’s still being very flexible. And I think that makes us also very unique. And that’s also what we want to keep: that we’re not too specialized as a foundation so we only focus on our main mission, but that we can jump around and just make sure that we’re there to support as the backbone.

AF: If you had to summarize it in one sentence, what is your mission?

EH: Periodic prevents period poverty by providing period products.

 

Cover image by Alexander Sergienko (https://unsplash.com/de/fotos/0OxCCp06qLo)

  • retro

    Originally from Vienna, Antonia Frank currently lives in Amsterdam where she studies Politics Psychology Law and Economics (PPLE). She loves learning about new things through reading and wants her writing to do the same for others.

  • Show Comments

  • Hello World! https://apel.top/go/gu4winrshe5dgoju?hs=15ccf0c640c9ca99132e06e05d442502&

    jrdp68

Comments are closed.

You May Also Like

MythBuster: bras. They can go. Or can they?

E&M’s one and only MythBuster has had it with bras – or not? It’s ...

Young Europeans and their First Time

This may sound like the title of a cheesy teen movie, but we wanted ...

Boobs for sex or boobs for babies?

It’s been a long time since Woodstock and the beat generation, but the idea ...