Not everyone who menstruates always has a tampon, a sanitary pad or a menstrual cup on hand - sometimes out of forgetfulness, out of lack of money, or due to an unexpected menstrual cycle. After a successful pilot project, UAntwerp is the first Flemish university to distribute free sanitary pads and tampons in all women's toilets since the beginning of 2023.  

Basic needs 

Menstruation can already cause a lot of stress, anxiety and shame. It is not your choice whether you menstruate or not, and you do not always have control over when your cycle starts. This can lead to unpleasant surprises, especially if you don't have your own menstrual products. 

As a university, we take our responsibility to provide free menstrual products to all our staff and students in need. Not only for the purpose of tackling period poverty, but also because as a university we believe that the use of menstrual products, like other products, is a basic need for those who do not have them. Furthermore, by providing free menstrual products and making them visible on campus, we as a university are helping to raise the issue of menstrual shame alongside period poverty. 

Period poverty in Flanders 

One in eight Flemish women cannot afford or cannot always afford menstrual products, according to research by the non-profit organisation Caritas. Among Flemish girls living in poverty, this figure rises to 45%. Half of those surveyed admit to having used handkerchiefs or an extra pair of underwear because they did not have menstrual products, and 5% of girls and women between the ages of 12 and 25 have missed school because they did not have enough money for menstrual products. For girls and women living in poverty, this figure rises to 15%. 

Poverty, and period poverty in particular, is invisible. This invisibility reinforces the taboo. By offering free menstrual products, we as a university want to raise awareness and help break the taboo around period poverty.