MP Romou Tables and Chairs the Discussion of Period Poverty in Parliament | SOUALIGA NEWSDAY

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Member of Parliament (MP) Angelique Romou requested and chaired an Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs committee meeting on the topic of “Period Poverty Legislation“ on Wednesday morning.

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports and Minister of Public Health were in attendance to update Parliament on the status of the topic and future plans within their respective Ministries. In September 2021, The Teen Times organization submitted to MP Romou a proposal for the need of Period Poverty Legislation.

In this proposal, Teen Times shared their concerns regarding Period Poverty as a Public Health Crisis, the need for equal access to feminine hygiene products for all, their ideas on period poverty legislation and which areas it should tackle and suggestions on what can be done in the ad-interim in the absence of legislation. MP Romou then requested an ECYS Committee Meeting with agenda point “Discussion on Period Poverty Legislation Submitted by Teen Times”.

MP Romou stated: “In September 2021, The Teen Times submitted to me as Member of Parliament a proposal for the need of Period Poverty Legislation, a move that I wholeheartedly commend. I must say, prior to this, the topic of period poverty did have my attention as it has been a debate, maybe one that we don’t have enough of, for some time now” MP Romou stated in her opening remarks.

“This topic is not a local one, it is a global one! To give context to the word period poverty – Period Poverty for women can be simply as going to the supermarket and having to choose whether you can buy food or a box of sanitary napkins. Period Poverty is not being able to afford menstrual hygiene products. Mothers having to make the difficult choice to either feed their family or purchase sanitary napkins. Young girls not having access to these items and having to use rags, toilet paper or even reused pads. This is a reality and one that demands our attention,” MP Romou continued.

“Just last year in August 2022, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer period products free for all through their Period Products Free Provision Bill. This bill also mandates that education providers ensure period products are obtainable, free of charge for students. In the US, sixty state laws and 2 federal laws have been enacted. The laws include eliminating the menstrual tax, making menstrual products more accessible by requiring them in schools, prisons, correctional facilities and shelters; and addressing the safety of these products by requiring ingredient disclosure. The reason I’m giving these statistics is because if these big countries can do it for their population, we sure can make provisions for our 16 square miles”.

MP Romou believes the first focus in tackling period poverty and promoting period equity is to start with our schools. She elucidated that “We need to ensure our young girls have access and access in a manner that it is not shameful for them. Then we can look at our community and study which touch points in our community can assist with levelling period poverty. In certain countries, businesses offer access to sanitary napkins free of charge in their establishments as a gesture of good will. We can look at our community helpdesks, Women Desk and other organizations that can band together and ensure that the days of mothers and women having to choose between basic necessities and their basic human rights are no longer”.

MP Romou indicated that before her questions were posed to the ministers, she had received, notification from the teen times that they were following the meeting and they indicated that the teen times had received requests from two elementary schools so far to be part of their period poverty program, namely the Marie Genevieve de Weever and Oranje School, because they have challenges with this issue, and that it should be noted that the stigma surrounding period poverty prevents most girls to go to the schools’ offices to ask for sanitary napkins.

In the question round, MP Romou posed several questions to Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports pertaining to possible statistics and data that the Ministry may have regarding absenteeism amongst girls in schools related to their monthly cycle, average days of school missed by young girls as a result of their menstrual cycle and accessibility of sanitary napkins to girls in schools and where can girls access sanitary napkins in school if needed?

She also questioned on the existence of any past projects that covered or touched on the topic, the Minister’s ideas when it comes to funding free menstrual products in schools and how students are being educated on menstruation and de-stigmatizing menstruation through our curriculums.

MP Romou submitted questions to the Minister of Public Health pertaining to the number of active community helpdesks there are on the island and their operation hours to the public, possible incoming community requests submitted for the need of feminine menstrual products, the accessibility of feminine hygiene products being accessible for free at functioning shelter(s) on the island and how the Minister can envision organizations like Women’s Desk or any other organizations that are funded, subsidized or work along with VSA to contribute to achievement of period equity.

Both ministers will return to Parliament to answer the questions posed in the committee meeting and further discuss on what can be done in both the executive branch as well as the legislative branch as it relates to period poverty.

“I found the preliminary discussions we had today in Parliament to be a step in the right direction and I want to assure the public of St. Maarten and in particular the youth and the Teen Times, that I will continue to work on this topic as I also sought information on legislation and policies already in use from colleague MPs in the Caribbean Region and continue to work on any needed initiatives or parliamentary motions that can decrease period poverty and increase period equity. Our women of this country deserves it,” MP Romou concluded.

Source: Soualiga Newsday