Everyone should have the right to manage their periods with dignity and good hygiene. But lots of people in Ireland miss school because of feeling shamed and uncomfortable about their periods – and many struggle to buy pads, tampons or reusable period products.
Something as fundamental to our wellbeing as period products should be free to everyone who needs them. The thing is, on paper, there’s very little disagreement about the roll out of free period products in public places.
But women and people with periods are still waiting for this government to act, and now corporations like Lidl are outstripping the people who are meant to represent us. 
We’ve had enough of Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly dragging his heels on period poverty.
Uplift members have been piling on the pressure and together we’ve got them to pick up speed. After 4,125 of us signed a petition, Minister Roderic O’Gorman announced that all residents in Direct Provision Centres would have access to free period products. 
But, homeless people have been completely left out of the equation. Their only support comes from the independent charity Homeless Periods Ireland who tirelessly work to distribute period products free of charge to homeless people across Ireland. 
Imagine living in poverty and not being able to afford these products? This is the case for a staggering 54,000-85,000 people in Ireland.  If you’re already dealing with a precarious living situation, the very last thing you need is being forced to use rags or toilet paper to stem your bleeding.
Re-using pads, or making makeshift ones from rags and toilet paper increases the risk of urogenital infections, irritation and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.  It can also completely disrupt the lives of teenagers living in poverty as they are more likely to miss school while on their period.
Government provision of free period products to all who need them is the solution. It would mean all menstruating people in the country could look after themselves with dignity and avoid the risks associated with inadequate period care.
We know this is possible – just this year Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free.  And, in Northern Ireland, after 5,000 people signed a petition, the government announced that free period products would be made available in Northern Irish schools. 
Now we’re coming up with some creative tactics to bring this back on Health Minister Stephen Donnelly’s agenda. Can you chip in to pay for a huge billboard outside his office in Wicklow so he’ll be reminded every day how urgent this issue is for thousands of people in Ireland?
One of 500 ‘End Period Poverty’ stickers funded by and sent out to Uplift members. Design by Fiona McDonnell.
P.S. As a community that campaigns for equity for marginalised people, this article explains why we use inclusive language when talking about periods – so trans and non-binary people who menstruate aren’t left out of the conversation.