As one of the first universities in Germany, we have got free period products since November 2021. 🎆
Access to free hygiene products can be a way to reduce barriers and access difficulties. At the same time, access can set an example against feelings of shame and insecurity with regard to menstruation at the university and contribute to financial relief for students and employees. After all, hygiene products are part of daily needs and are not luxury items.
Access to free period products is an important step towards equality, because menstruating people have financial costs every month, which should not be a luxury.
The social problem of period poverty
“If menstrual products are available free of charge and integrated into everyday life, it will – step by step – be dealt with more and more openly and you might manage to make it a less taboo subject in today’s society.” (Lena Stangassinger, Social Period e.V.)
How does it feel as a menstruating person to be surprised by your period in a public toilet and not have any sanitary products with you? Is it your own fault? No, after all, there is toilet paper. Many menstruators are denied free access to period products. And that is discriminatory. After all, periods are a biological fact. The scenario described is a case of period poverty, which is a problem all over the world – including in Germany.
What is period poverty?
Period poverty refers to the phenomenon when menstruators do not have enough money to buy period products. This can result in individuals not participating in social life during menstruation, or participating in it only to a limited extent.
What are causes of period poverty?
The causes are wide-ranging, but usually focus primarily on financial hardship. Period poverty begins where menstruating people are not properly educated or are ashamed to put tampons on the produce belt. Period life can get expensive: In addition to the obvious costs of tampons, pads and menstrual cups, which are already overpriced, there are the possible painkillers and new underwear.
What are the possible consequences of lack of periods?
The consequences can be psychological, physical and social. People affected by period poverty have to stay at home during their period and cannot go to educational institutions or social appointments. In the long term, this leads to exclusion from society and to dangerous experiments, such as using socks, plastic bags or toilet paper to stop bleeding. Ultimately, all these emergency situations lead to psychological stress.
Why at the Viadrina?
Two years ago, Viadrina introduced unisex toilets as a measure for a discrimination-free and inclusive university. Viadrina is implementing step by step § 7 para. 1-2 BbgHG, the mandate of actual equality at Brandenburg universities. The introduction of free period products in the university toilets is an important next step, which can support the equality and anti-discrimination work of the Viadrina.