Some schools introduce access to free feminine hygiene goods

While it is still being decided whether all schools should provide free pads and tampons, some schools are starting to do so on their own initiative, Latvian Radio reported on April 25.

A month ago, the Rīga State Gymnasium No. 3 installed boxes with free hygienic pads in the girls' restrooms. Alongside the boxes there are trash cans and signs saying that the pads are free to use if necessary.

Twelfth-grader Megija said: "We didn't know such a project would be implemented and this was like a miracle to us. One time we walked into the bathrooms and noticed it, and these were positive emotions. I think it is important for shy girls who can't go to the nurse and ask, or [the period] starts unexpectedly and you are in the bathroom and can immediately take. It should've been accessible long ago, but it's cool that it's accessible now and girls can feel safe."

Sintija added: "I went to ask the nurse once and she gave me the last one, and if another girl had come, she wouldn't have got it. We are 12th-year students and we know when the period will come, and we take the pads with us, but I think it is important for younger girls with irregular cycles."

The girls expressed hope that universities would also provide access to feminine hygiene goods.

Meanwhile, the Jūrmala State Gymnasium introduced free pads a year and a half ago. This was the students' initiative. 

Student Laura said: "You go into the bathroom and you know it will be there and you don't have to ask anyone, a friend, or God forbid, a teacher. My classmates and friends use this opportunity."

Last year, the citizens' initiative on free hygiene products for girls in schools came to the Saeima. One of the authors of the initiative, the head of the Women's Collaborative Network, Ineta Ielīte, said that the organization has also launched a pilot project during which these goods will be provided to educational institutions in the counties of Aizkraukle and Balvi this year. A total of 25 schools, with around 1,500 girls attending.

"This pilot project will help us to clarify the demand for state budget funds and identify problems when its goods are also purchased centrally, procured and delivered to schools. We will also encourage schools and girls to share good practice afterwards, as well as what is worrying or creating any barriers for them," Ielīte told Latvian Radio.

The municipality assesses that the project will not cause major financial problems.

The Ministry of Welfare currently coordinates the introduction of free hygiene products in schools. Commenting on the progress of the project, Welfare Minister Uldis Augulis (Union of Greens and Farmers) said that it is currently also a matter of local governments' prestige as the availability of these goods is a self-evident need in schools.

"This project is a horizontal issue. Rather than just looking at the Ministry of Welfare and looking for funds in the budget, we all need to get involved - the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, the Ministry of Welfare so that we can provide things for granted in schools. [..] This is a matter to be talked about in the budget process, but at the moment it looks like it is not so expensive that it cannot be provided by the educational institutions and municipalities themselves today. "

The pilot project's experience is scheduled to be evaluated at the end of June, and free hygiene products in all schools could be available from January next year.

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