Last Monday, the Executive Office of Stormont (Northern Irish Assembly) launched a public consultation to make period products free to all.
The consultation follows the passing of the Period Products Act last year, which made products freely available in schools, colleges and all public buildings, including governmental buildings.
The bill was introduced by Social Democratic and Labour Party politician Pat Catney in an attempt to tackle period poverty, which has increased during the cost-of-living crisis.
Catney worked with women’s groups and campaigners in Northern Ireland in creating this legislation to ensure that it properly reflected the needs of women.
Commenting on the launching of the consultation, Catney said, ‘it’s heartbreaking to think that in this day and age people’s lives are being interrupted because they simply cannot afford these products.’
Period inequality and period poverty affects thousands of people across the UK. A study by Plan International UK found that 137,700 children missed at least one day of school every year because of the inability to purchase period products.
The consultation was launched by the Director of Equality, Rights and Identity in the Executive Office, Siobhan Broderick, who described the act as ‘a matter of basic dignity.’
Broderick has invited citizens of Northern Ireland to complete a 10 minute survey that will allow the government to understand three main objectives.
These include: how they ought to be able to obtain period products free of charge, where period products ought to be obtainable free of charge, and what types of period products ought to be obtainable free of charge
The Executive Office will also consider factors such as rural needs, because of huge regional disparities. The enacting of this legislature means Northern Ireland will no longer be the only country in the UK without a permanent plan to tackle period poverty.