This Tuesday, the Government approved the Comprehensive Menstrual, Perimenopausal and Menopausal Equity Plan 2023-2025, spearheaded by the Ministry of Equality and Feminisms with the participation of all departments. It is a working plan framed within the development of the National Sexual and Reproductive Rights Strategy, which furthers the recognised rights and introduces new ones, such as the right to menstrual equity.
The plan contains around 60 actions targeted at guaranteeing all women free access to menstrual products, especially sustainable ones, and to combat the taboos and stigma associated with menstruation, perimenopause and menopause through education in many spheres and mentoring with quality information.‘With this plan, Catalonia is once again on the cutting edge internationally in guaranteeing sexual and reproductive rights’, said the Minister for Equality and Feminisms, Tània Verge Mestre, at the presentation of the road map.
The plan seeks a threefold objective. The first is to promote gender justice, because it seeks to break taboos and stigmas about menstruation, perimenopause and menopause and advocates for women's health. Secondly, it is a step towards social justice because it combats menstrual poverty, which affects one out of every five women in the country and may increase given the current rise in the cost of living. Finally, the plan contributes to climate justice in that every year Catalonia produces around 9,000 tonnes of non-reusable menstrual products.
The plan proposes actions in seven working areas: menstrual education in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood; menstrual education in the field of social-community intervention; the accessibility of appropriate products and spaces; measures in the workplace; training of professionals; fostering research and knowledge; and dissemination and awareness-raising.
Menstrual products accessible to everyone
The plan approved this Tuesday includes several measures targeted at guaranteeing access to menstrual products for all women, as well as nonbinary people and trans* men who menstruate, and especially to promote the use of products that are reusable.
To this end, dispensers with organic cotton sanitary pads and tampons will be installed in many public facilities and services so they are available to everyone, especially women in situations of vulnerability. They will be located in the Ministry of Equality and Feminisms’s network of services (which includes the women's information and care services, specialised care services for gender violence, comprehensive LGTBI+ care services and shelter services for migrants and refugees). will also promote the installation of dispensers at schools and universities, youth facilities (hostels or youth offices), primary healthcare centres, social services facilities, centres caring for drug dependencies, cultural facilities, Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya stations and Mossos d’Esquadra police stations, among others.
The plan also includes a first-ever measure internationally: free access to reusable menstrual products for all women who have their period in Catalonia, approximately 1.8 million of them. The products can be collected at local points around the country, with full territorial equity, where information and advice on using them will also be provided. It is a ‘measure for the entire country, for all women, regardless of where they live’, in the words of minister Verge.
The free distribution of sustainable menstrual products will be continued at secondary schools all over Catalonia with the ‘My period, my rules’ programme, which will reach 85,500 students in their third year of compulsory secondary school at 1,120 centres this academic year and will be repeated every year from now on. Furthermore, starting next year, discounts will be introduced for the purchase of sustainable and reusable menstrual products via the Carnet Jove and the university student card.
In order to facilitate the use of the menstrual cup, restrooms in public facilities and workplaces, including schools, will be adapted and signs will be posted. Other facilities and services open to the public around the country will be encouraged to do the same.
Education, dissemination and awareness-raising
‘We are guaranteeing free access to menstrual products and will do so with mentoring and quality information to put an end to the myths, taboos and lack of knowledge that is preventing us from having a dignified, free, healthy and sustainable experience of menstruation, perimenopause and menopause’, said Verge. To this end, many of the actions called for in the plan are associated with menstrual education, sharing knowledge and raising awareness.
Thus, a variety of awareness-raising campaigns will be promoted, targeted at both the general public and specific segments (like young people or the world of sport). Menstrual education will be included in the sex education curriculum for primary, secondary and special education students, and in workshops targeted at families. Workshops will also be held on menstrual, perimenopausal and menopausal education at adult training centres, juvenile justice centres and penitentiaries, hospitals, youth facilities, recreational education spaces, civic facilities, care services for women experiencing gender violence and services caring for LGBTI+ people, among others. In all cases, the contents of the workshops will bear in mind the needs of each group (adolescents, young adults, families, women with disabilities, nonbinary people and trans* men who menstruate, etc.).
Furthermore, a variety of educational resources will be generated, such as a backpack with samples of all existing menstrual products (reusable and single-use), which will be available in strategic places like the educational resource centres of the Ministry of Education or the women’s information and care services.
Training of professionals: Multiplying effect on promoting menstrual equity
All the work planned in relation to menstrual education will be done in alliance with prominent professionals in different fields. For this reason, the programme stresses the training of professionals in education, health services—both primary care and sexual and reproductive health, professionals in the social services working with adolescents and people with disabilities, teams caring for women experiencing gender violence and staff specialised in promoting workplace health. These are stakeholders that can have a clear multiplying effect on promoting and guaranteeing the right to menstrual equity.
At the same time, the plan calls for incorporating specific contents on menstrual, perimenopausal and menopausal health in university and vocational training degrees in the health sciences and promoting research in this field.
Workplace health for menstruation, perimenopause and menopause
Another innovative aspect of this plan is its focus on workplace health with a gender perspective, which includes actions related to menstruation, perimenopause and menopause both within the administration of the Government of Catalonia and in the private sector as a whole via social pacts. In the sense, one of the plan’s lines of action is to continue working to spread time flexibility measures to all women workers for cases of menstruation, perimenopause or menopause that are affecting their health, such as the ones already approved for public administration staff. It also calls for adapting different workspaces to the specific needs of working women who are experiencing perimenopause or menopause, such as the temperature and ventilation of spaces. This measure will be added to the Catalan Workplace Safety and Health Strategy 2021-2026, as part of the Labour Relations Board of Catalonia.