Published

15 Jun 2022

Written by

Laia Guardiola (Rezero) and Larissa Copello (Consumption & Production Campaigner at Zero Waste Europe)

#PeriodPovertyWeek 2022: success stories from Ukraine and Spain on menstrual equity and sustainability

RezeroZero Waste Alliance Ukraine

Founded by the Alliance for Period Supplies, the #PeriodPovertyWeek takes place every year in the last week of May. Its aim? To educate on the issue of period poverty and its impact on people who menstruate. This year, it took place on 23-29 May and, once again, the Break Free From Plastic movement and the Zero Waste Europe network have engaged in a week of awareness-raising and advocacy activities about period poverty by connecting the social, health and environmental angle of periods.

We believe that social and environmental justice goes hand in hand, and in order to achieve it, it needs to be intersectional and inclusive – in its movement, in conversation, and in actions. This year, we want to highlight the stories of two of our members: Zero Waste Lviv (Ukraine) and Rezero (Spain), both of whom succeeded in addressing period poverty in different realities.

Zero Waste Lviv: collection of reusable menstrual hygiene products for internally displaced people in Ukraine

This year a full-scale war in Ukraine has significantly undermined the state’s economy. The most vulnerable groups were left homeless and many people without work and earnings. Among them, there are many women of all ages. From the first days of the war, there was a significant reduction in the availability of hygiene products for Ukrainian women, even in the relatively peaceful and remote cities far from the front lines.

Therefore, in the unfolding of this humanitarian crisis, followed by the lack of accessibility of menstrual products as well as of economic resources, Zero Waste Lviv has decided to draw attention to this issue and how reusable menstrual products could be an effective solution, from an environmental, health, economic and social perspective. First of all, conventional single-use menstrual products can only be used once after which they will be thrown away, compelling women  to constantly purchase these products which has a significant impact on not only women’s health and the environment, but also the monthly budget.

So, the question is how to not depend on single-use menstrual products, and also significantly save money. During the war, this is especially relevant for temporarily displaced women as well as nonbinary/trans people who menstruate, volunteers, doctors, and women in the military. These are the people who, due to life or work circumstances, typically do not have access to the conventional single-use menstrual products and might also need to reduce their costs.

Hence, Zero Waste Lviv, with the support of foreign partners, organised a project aimed at informing Ukrainian women about the multiple benefits of reusable menstrual products. They asked their foreign partner organisations, such as Zoldovezet Torsulos from Hungary, Zero Waste Croatia and the Ukrainian Association in South Africa to support the implementation of this joint humanitarian project, with the purpose of providing women with reusable menstrual products, including menstrual cups, reusable pads and menstrual underwear. These products were donated free of charge to people in need in the city of Lviv.

Providing people who menstruate with reusable menstrual products in Lviv, Ukraine.

With the start of a full-scale invasion, our team began to think about how the war affects waste in the rear cities. More than 200,000 people moved to Lviv, which became a refuge for a large number of people (720,000 populations before the war). Most of them are women and children. On the one hand, this has led to an increase in the share of single-use menstrual products in the city’s waste stream. On the other hand, some women have lost their source of income. This forces us to raise such a topic as “menstrual poverty” – the inability to provide themselves with menstrual products” – Iryna Myronova, Executive Director of Zero Waste Lviv.

We have a good relationship with Zero Waste Lviv, so we offered our help. One of the activities of our organisation is the promotion of reusable menstrual products. and awareness raising about the impacts of the single-use counterparts, especially on the environment and women’s health, especially with educational institutions for schoolgirls and students. In Hungary, this topic is also somewhat taboo and we are trying to change it.

Working with the Zero Waste Lviv team, they came up with the project’s idea of collecting and distributing reusable menstrual products to women in Ukraine, which would be of great help and support during the current war crisis. Therefore, our organisation initiated the collection of these products in Hungary. We were supported by many people, from civilians, manufacturers and sellers. Thanks to their help, we’ve collected many reusable menstrual products which were already sent to Ukraine. We hope that this kind of support will be effective” – Anna-Maria Domonyik, Project Manager at the Hungarian Greenzone Association.

As part of the project, Zero Waste Lviv and their project partners organised online webinars and in-person meetings with gynaecologists and other experts with the aim to provide comprehensive information on reusable menstrual products, including their benefits and usage.

The webinar also counted foreign experts as speakers, including: Natalia Novikova, gynaecologist (South Africa); Chanel Martinusen, doctor and founder of the cup brand “F- word Cup” (South Africa; and Anna-Maria Domonyik, project manager of Greenzone Association, NGO Zoldovezet Torsulos (Hungary).

The webinar recording is always available for viewing online on their YouTube channel (in Ukrainian) .

The first in-person meeting took place in the private medical centre of St. Paraskeva. Due to the large number of inquiries from women in Lviv, these meetings will be held periodically. 

As for the future prospects of the project, Zero Waste Lviv hopes that reusable menstrual products will become an indispensable item for Ukrainian women and that each of them will eventually become an advocate of these solutions..

The project is still ongoing and anyone can support it. If you would like to get involved, please contact:  anastasiia.tymofiiv@zerowastelviv.org.ua 

Contacts: Iryna Myronova and Nadiya Kuhuk (Zero Waste Lviv)

 

Rezero: the New Period project is positioning Catalonia as one of the most progressive regions on menstrual equity

Great achievements on menstrual equity and sustainability are also happening in Spain, especially in the Catalonia region, thanks to the New Period project and campaign led by our member Rezero.

The campaign works both at an individual and governmental level. It provides menstrual education programs at primary and high schools aiming to break taboos about menstruation, spreading clear information about period experiences and menstrual products, empowering people who menstruate , as well as raising awareness about the environmental, economic, social and health impacts of conventional single-use menstrual products and the benefits of reusables. To promote reusable menstrual products, the campaign helps to increase their availability through a directory of local and sustainable brands of reusable products.

In addition, Rezero, through the New Period campaign, advocates in favour of policies that supports safe and reusable menstrual products to address menstrual poverty (4 over 10 women in Spain cannot afford their preferable menstrual product). In this regard, Rezero works closely with the Catalan government in the elaboration of a Menstrual Equity Plan together with the Feminism and Equality Department of the Catalan Government, which, as part of their strategy on sexual and reproductive rights, includes several measures on access to reusable menstrual products for all people who menstruate and the promotion of menstrual education.

Campaign visuals of the New Period project

Also, at the more local level, Rezero works with municipalities on their menstrual education training to officials, awareness raising and initiatives with public authorities in Catalonia and Balearic Islands, including the first period-friendly toilet network at the city of Barcelona with close to 100 identified points.

Some great achievements were reached in Catalonia and Spain, including:

  • The distribution of reusable menstrual products, including menstrual cups, reusable pads and period panties, among 3rd year high school students in Catalonia.
  • The inclusion of menstrual education in sexual and heath educational programs for high schools.
  • The insertion into the draft bill of the Spanish abortion law on the adoption of a national right of menstrual leave and the distribution of menstrual products at educational centers, social centers and prisons.

Contact: Laia Guardiola (Rezero)