The retail giant has said it will start providing free boxes of sanitary pads or tampons to girls and women as part of a new programme targeting period poverty.
Lidl announced on Monday the launch of a new coupon scheme that will enable girls and women in Ireland to access free sanitary products using the Lidl Plus app each month. From 19 April, women will be able to sign up to receive the monthly coupon, which they can use from 3 May in 168 stores nationwide, said the retailer.
This latest move makes Lidl the “first major retailer in the world” to offer free period products in stores, the company has said.
“Period poverty” is defined as the inability to afford safe, hygienic sanitary products and is internationally recognised as a health and social issue. Research carried out by Plan International in Ireland found that almost 50% of girls aged between 12 and 19 found it difficult to pay for sanitary products, while one in 10 of those surveyed said they were forced to use a “less suitable sanitary product” because of the high monthly cost. The research also found 61% of Irish teenage girls felt too embarrassed to talk about their period.
Lidl also committed to making quarterly donations of sanitary products to the Simon Communities of Ireland to ensure people experiencing homelessness, and who may not have access to a smartphone, could also access the free products.
Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan who introduced legislation in January calling on the Minister for Health to provide period products free of charge in education settings and public buildings nationwide, described Lidl’s initiative as “hugely impressive” and commended the company for taking the lead in paving a path for period justice in Ireland.
“Lidl is leading by example on period justice and I hope that the Government see that if a private company is willing to take a leap forward on period justice, then it is absolutely possible and incumbent on the State to do so too,” said Ms Moynihan. “Taking a universal approach by investing in period justice will protect the most vulnerable in society and end the unnecessary stigma around periods in Ireland.”
In Ireland, the overall annual costs of period products per woman are estimated at €96.72per year. With the inclusion of pain relief, this can be estimated at a minimum of €121 per year. National data regarding consistent poverty rates would suggest that approximately 53,000 – 85,000 women and girls may be at risk of period poverty. There is significant evidence of period poverty amongst certain high-risk groups, including those experiencing homelessness and/or active addiction.
While Lidl has officially taken the first step in Ireland, countries including Scotland and New Zealand have rolled out government initiative that makes period products free nation-wide.