Health

France to provide free menstrual products to all university students

France will provide free tampons, sanitary pads and other menstrual protection to students.
France will provide free tampons, sanitary pads and other menstrual protection to students. © Sarah Pflug

France has announced that it will provide period protection for free to students, who are already facing financial strain due to the Covid pandemic. It is part of a drive to address “period poverty” faced by students and other people who cannot afford menstrual protection.

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At a meeting with students in Poitiers this week, Higher Education Minister Frederique Vidal said that dispensers containing free tampons, sanitary towels and other products would be installed in student residences and university health services in the coming weeks.

"The goal is to have 1,500 dispensers,” she said, with menstrual products “completely free of charge” at the start of the academic year in September. It is an ambitious but realistic goal, she said, which will cost about €15million a year.

The decision expands local initiatives that have already been put in place for high school and university students.

Period poverty

According to a study published earlier this month by the French federation of student groups, one third of university students in France face "period poverty", the inability to pay for period protection.

Of the over 6,500 people questioned, 13% said they had to choose between buying period protection and other essential products, like food. One out of ten say they make their own protection products, out of financial necessity. One of twenty said they used toilet paper.

The organisation Règles Élémentaires, which fights against period poverty, or menstrual precarity, who advised the government on the issue, welcomed Vidal's announcement and the speed at which the free products would be deployed.

“It is a big step in the fight against menstrual precarity in general, and a big victory in the fight against student menstrual precarity in particular,” announced the group.

Student poverty

The move to provide free menstrual products to students is part of a larger acknowledgement of youth poverty. Food banks have seen in an influx of students, who are struggling to make ends meet after losing part-time jobs in cafés and restaurants, which have been closed because of the Covid pandemic.

In December, President Emmanuel Macron had promised to address the issue of period poverty, which affects not just students, but homeless women and others in precarious financial situations.

Macron commented on "the fact of having your period in the street and to be unable to buy something to protect yourself and preserve your dignity."

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