Lidl Ireland has said it will start providing free boxes of sanitary pads or tampons to girls and women as part of a new programme targeting period poverty.
The major retailer announced on Monday the launch of a new coupon scheme that will enable girls and women in Ireland to access free sanitary products using the Lidl Plus app each month.
From April 19th, women will be able to sign up to receive the monthly coupon which they can use from May 3rd in 168 stores nationwide, said the retailer. This latest move makes Lidl the “first major retailer in the world” to offer free period products in stores, the company has said.
Lidl also committed to making quarterly donations of sanitary products to the Simon Communities of Ireland to ensure people experiencing homelessness, and who may not have access to a smartphone, could also access the free products.
The retailer is also working with the Ladies Gaelic Football Association to provide period products to clubs around the country while also continuing to provide these essential items to its workforce, according to a statement from the group.
Period poverty is defined as the inability to afford safe, hygienic sanitary products and is internationally recognised as a health and social issue. Research carried out by Plan International in Ireland found almost 50 per cent of girls aged between 12 and 19 found it difficult to pay for sanitary products, while one in 10 of those surveyed said they were were forced to use a “less suitable sanitary product” because of the high monthly cost. The research also found 61 per cent of Irish teenage girls felt too embarrassed to talk about their period.
Jennifer Kitson of Simon Communities said the charity was delighted to see Lidl’s initiative to combat period poverty and noted that the retailer’s donations would mean “greater access to sanitary products for our clients who need them, when they need them”.
Dublin footballer Carla Rowe said there had “long been a stigma around menstruation in the public sphere, particularly when competing in sport” and that Lidl’s approach would help raise awareness and support women and girls affected by period poverty.
Claire Hunt, founder of the Homeless Period Ireland charity, said no woman or girl living in Ireland should have to choose between feeding themselves and their family or buying period products. She commended Lidl for “taking a lead in restoring dignity” to women in Ireland, adding that she hoped legislation would soon be introduced to end period poverty in this country.
The Government committed in its programme for Government to provide a range of free, adequate, safe and suitable period products in all publicly funded educational settings in Ireland. The Seanad is addressing a number of Bills relating to the provision of period products while Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman recently issued a directive that all direct provision centres provide residents with free period products.
Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan described Lidl’s initiative as “hugely impressive” and commended the company for taking the lead in paving a path for period justice in Ireland.
Ms Moynihan introduced legislation in January calling on the Minister for Health to provide period products free of charge in education settings and public buildings nationwide. Separate legislation on the same topic was introduced by Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee following Ms Moynihan’s submission.
‘Leading by example’
“Lidl is leading by example on period justice and I hope that the Government see that if a private company is willing to take a leap forward on period justice, then it is absolutely possible and incumbent on the State to do so too,” said Ms Moynihan. “Taking a universal approach by investing in period justice will protect the most vulnerable in society and end the unnecessary stigma around periods in Ireland.”
Ms Moynihan underlined that her recent public consultation on the topic had found nearly half of women experienced problems accessing or affording period products while 60 per cent faced increased difficulties accessing these items during the pandemic. Not providing women with these sanitary products is “an affront to our dignity as humans,” she said.
“We’re not expected to carry around toilet paper, why are period products treated differently? Period products must be freely available to all who want them, and any scheme must be inclusive in every respect.”
In November 2020, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for anyone who needs them, including in public places, while in February, New Zealand announced all its schools would offer free period products from June of this year.
Asked whether they had any similar projects in mind for their company, a Tesco Ireland spokeswoman said the retailer “supports local good causes in the communities around each of its 151 stores in Ireland through the Tesco Community Fund”.
Tesco’s community fund has made more than €5 million in donations to over 20,000 projects nationwide, including Homeless Period Ireland, while the company keeps campaigns and causes under review on an ongoing basis, she added.
Aldi, Dunnes Stores and Supervalu did not respond to requests for comment on whether they were considering making sanitary products freely available to customers.