Period poverty is an issue that has been addressed by many politicians, sociologists, journalists and NGOs, and yet is still a significant problem all around the world. As it affects women and non-binary people, it is a problem intertwined with feminism, and a phenomenon reinforcing gender norms and socioeconomic inequalities. However, it has been part of the feminist discussion only for the last few years, as it carries many stigmas with it: menstruation and poverty are both things many are ashamed of in modern, western countries.
It also affects hundreds of girls in Hungary and is a very serious issue, but Hungarian news outlets rarely address it. There isn’t any national aid or program, and Hungary’s tampon tax is still one of the highest in Europe. Most people don’t even know about this issue. I plan on changing that.
Period poverty entails a lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities or running water and appropriate disposal facilities for people with periods. Women and girls who suffer from period poverty can’t attend school or work during their period. They tend to drop out of school or have less-paid positions. In some cases, the lack of hygiene can also lead to health risks.
The tampon tax, a tax levied on menstrual hygiene products, is still 27% in Hungary. Female hygiene products are taxed at a reduced rate for example in the UK (5%), in Germany (7%), in France (5%). However, Hungary refuses to reduce the VAT on tampons and other essential female products – even if it did, the reduced tax rate would still be at 18%.
While many Western-European countries have also launched national campaigns and gave aid to women in need, in Hungary, only a few NGOs distribute products to women, for example, Women For Each Other (NEM) and the Red Cross – and clearly, it’s not enough.
I am among the luckiest: I can buy myself period products, I can write about my period, and as a journalist, I have instruments and platforms available to me to report on period poverty as well.
I just launched my PressStart.org campaign, where I’m crowdfunding money for my report on period poverty. With the funds, I will be able to travel Hungary and talk to many experts, doctors, NGOs, and social workers working on this issue as well as women affected by period poverty all around the country. I will also be able to contact activists in the UK and write about the mechanisms the British have been using to aid people affected by period poverty and to end period poverty itself. My articles will be published in one of the most popular online newspapers, and they will reach thousands of people.
Please visit my page if you would like to read further about period poverty and find out more about how you can support my work!
Illustration by Elisa Riemer