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Lidl and CarePlus Are Helping to Fight Period Poverty – Why Aren’t Others?

Within the past month, Lidl became the first Irish retailer to announce they were giving out free period products, an initiative that was closely followed by CarePlus Pharmacy. This is such an important step in the fight to end period poverty.

Lidl Ireland announced on the 19th of April that they would be partnering with Homeless Period Ireland and The Simon Communities in Ireland to offer free period products in their stores nationwide to those affected by period poverty. 

Each month you will be able to claim a dedicated coupon for a free box of sanitary pads or tampons through your Lidl Plus app monthly from the 3rd of May. Lidl will also be "committing to quarterly donations of period products to The Simon Communities to ensure people experiencing homelessness who may not have access to a smartphone can access these essential products" according to Lidl.ie.

Labour Minister Rebecca Moynihan commended Lidl for taking the lead to abolish period poverty after she introduced legislation in January calling on the Minister for Health to provide free period products in education settings and public buildings around Ireland. 

CarePlus Pharmacy announced their new scheme in a statement on April 26th, where they explained how inspired they were by Lidl's initiative. Those in need of period products can fill out a form on the pharmacies website (careplus.ie) and collect the products in-store.

Period poverty is a pervasive problem worldwide. It is defined as the inability to access sanitary products due to financial constraints. Period poverty is thought to affect as many as 85,000 people in Ireland, with those experiencing homelessness and addiction, particularly at risk. A study on young females in Ireland found that almost 50% of teens ages between 12 and 19 found it difficult to pay for sanitary products. 

Lidl and CarePlus's initiative to provide free period products is so important. Period products are not a luxury, we don't choose whether we want to spend money on them this month – we can't, because periods don't work like that. Periods come every month and you need to make sure you have the products when it does arrive. Periods are natural, they are not a luxury. 

The problem is, however, that it took a large retail company to see this and act upon it. I do not doubt that this initiative will help so many through period poverty, especially those who may be homeless – but my question is, why wasn't it our own government? It's not that difficult to have free period products in bathrooms – student unions are doing it across the country. 

Would it have been so difficult for each owner of hotels to include it in their bathroom essentials kits in each bedroom and in the bathroom on the ground floor? Would it have been too much to place them in public bathrooms, where you know there is bound to be someone who gets their period but either doesn't have any protection with them or can't afford the outrageous prices from the bathroom vending machines? Would it be too difficult to include them in primary and secondary schools, where young kids get their period for the first time, often as a shock, and have nothing to help them through the day?

I spoke to Anytime of The Month (AOTM), an organisation fighting to end period poverty in Ireland. They feel that the initiative provided by Lidl is something important and "should not be underestimated" because it brings to light "how prevalent period poverty is in Irish society". They went on to praise Lidl, saying "This company is finally paying attention to the financial struggles that accompany people who menstruate. It also channels the idea that period products are actually a necessity and not a luxury for those who menstruate." 

They hope that Lidl's step will encourage other international companies across the world to do the same, "the most important thing about Lidl's campaign is how it was/will be received across the world. If an international brand can dedicate itself to period poverty and achieving justice for those with periods why can't other company's do it?" going on to ask the same question that myself and so many others are asking – if an international company can do it, why can't the government?

People across Ireland welcome the important step taken by both Lidl and CarePlus pharmacies, with AOTM saying "We are thrilled with this milestone and eager for the future. Period poverty will be tackled, we are committed to it."

But now, it's time for the next step. It's time for our government to do their bit, and for owners of businesses and hotels across the country to do their bit to help us tackle period poverty. Too many people who menstruate feel shame when they don't have products with them and have to worry about missing school or work to ensure no blood is visible on their clothing. 

Put free period products in your bathrooms. It is not rocket science, and it could help so many people who need it.

I would say to any business owner or property owner - if your business or building has a bathroom, put free period products in it. You never know how many people you could help.

My name is Emma, and I'm originally from the north west of Ireland! I'm a journalism student in DCU, and have loved reading and writing ever since I was young. I'm a big lover of music, and also do some modelling work on the side!
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