Sinn Féin Downpatrick Councillor Oonagh Hanlon has brought forward a motion to the Newry Mourne and Down District Council’s Active and Healthy Committee on the need to act and remove period poverty in the council area.
In addressing the Council chamber, Cllr Hanlon said: “The motions reads: ‘This Council supports Period Poverty campaign and charities such as the Homeless Period and Red Box Project, the aim of these are to highlight the issue that sanitary products are not affordable for all females.
“As an initial step, that this Council looks at the feasibility of the introduction of free sanitary products in all council public conveniences.
“We should strive to proactively help efforts to tackle period poverty and be part of bringing about such positive change.
“It should be the norm in schools, universities, colleges, workplaces, football grounds, concert venues, for free access to sanitary product provision.
“We as a council will also write to the relevant ministers to ask for an update on the introduction of free sanitary products in schools and education facilities. Currently the North is the only area in the UK where free products are not provided to those in need.“
Cllr Hanlon explained that: “To date Council has allocated sanitary products to 11 groups and they are looking for more support on this. The financial allocation has all been allocated. In Scotland, England and Wales they are offered in public places.
“One in ten of females under 14 can’t afford sanitary products and 49% miss days at school on account of this if there are no products available at the school. Therefore we need to look after these pupils.”
Cllr Karen McKevitt (SDLP) said: “I support and welcome this motion. It is time to end this stigma for women. Let’s hope the motion comes to fruition.”
Cllr Hanlon summed up and said: “The parties have all supported the motion which was passed. Council officers will now prepare a paper on the logistics of the motion and prepare a media campaign.
“We must also write to the Department of Education and the Department and ask for an update of their policies on this issue.
“We may have to refer some of this back to the Neighbourhood Services Committee. We also need to be talking the the South Eastern HSC Trust ensuring they are included in changes that may take place.”
Cllr John Trainor proposed the motion and it was seconded by Cllr Barra O Muiri.