Free feminine hygiene items at schools to be considered

Some girls in Latvia are forced to skip school due to not having access to necessary hygiene products every month. The necessary signatures for an initiative to change the situation on Manabalss.lv have been collected within two weeks. Further progress of this initiative in the Saeima was supported April 4 by the responsible committee.

In a survey of what girls would do if hygiene products were not available to the girl at school, 23% replied that they would try to make a pad themselves (high risk for infections of the reproductive system); 17% would go home; 1% said they would move around less. Consequently, 41% of girls would act in a way that should not be the case in today's society, the initiative's author, Ineta Ielīte, said.

According to Ielīte, taking data from international studies and applying them to Latvia, it could be that as many as one in six girls are forced to skip school due to unavailable hygiene products.

The Education Ministry's parliamentary secretary, Kārlis Strautiņš, questioned statistics that so many girls have been forced to skip school. He also drew attention to the fact that installing special machines would lead to high additional costs. “If necessary, this product can be obtained free of charge from a school nurse.”

Gunars Kūtris, deputy of the Saeima Mandate Commission, said: “Is there a nurse in all schools, is she always there? Or if that girl is shy to ask, it will not solve the matter.”

A study carried out at Rīga Stradiņš University in March 2023, surveying 102 female respondents from eight schools in eastern Latvia, 42% indicated that menstrual hygiene products are in fact unavailable at the schools. 36% said they could be obtained from the nurse, 9% did not know. 7% indicated that they could be obtained both from teachers and the nurse. 

According to the study, 5% of the respondents had had difficulties obtaining hygiene products due to financial issues, but 16% indicated that they had had to improvise with a toilet-paper pad every or almost every time they got a period. 30% had skipped at least one PE class due to unavailable hygiene products, and 21% had missed other social activities.

98% indicated that they would like to have freely available hygiene products at the school.

During the discussions, the majority of the committee agreed that in the future it should be possible to obtain hygiene products without requesting them.

The mandates committee unanimously supported and transferred the voter initiative to two Saeima committees for further evaluation.

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