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Period poverty: the City of Geneva takes action

In response to concerns about the affordability of menstrual products, the City of Geneva is launching a pilot project of sanitary towel vending machines in public places. The emphasis is on places where young people and those most at risk of period poverty congregate.

Associated article

The issue of period poverty and more generally the affordability of menstrual products has been a matter of public concern in French-speaking Switzerland for some months now, as the numerous motions raised in cantonal and municipal parliaments and campaigning groups bear witness. 

Pilot project with free vending machines

Alongside Motion M-1499 put forward at the Municipal Council on 16 January 2020 headed “For menstrual hygiene products provided to municipal employees,” the City of Geneva has launched a pilot project with vending machines containing free menstrual products, primarily targeting those most at risk of period poverty: young people and those on a low income.

This will see 53 vending machines with organic cotton sanitary towels installed in early September at 30 sites in the city. Various community centres, libraries, sports centres, facilities for people in need and women’s and LGBTIQ+ groups are involved in the pilot scheme, which will be reviewed after a year to decide if it should be extended and possibly made permanent. Alfonso Gomez, Administrative Councillor responsible for equality issues, believes that “This protection is a matter of basic need, just like toilet paper, which is free in public places, at work and in restaurants as a matter of course. Easy and free access to menstrual protection is a way of both combating period poverty and promoting gender equality.” 

A problem that has been ignored in the past

There are no statistics on period poverty in Switzerland, but the cost of menstruation was estimated at around CHF 4,500 over a lifetime in an investigation carried out by RTS in February 2020. This is a major expense, and comes on top of other forms of economic discrimination affecting women specifically, such as wage inequality and the “pink tax”. Some groups in the population, such as young people, those on low incomes and/or who are homeless, female migrants and LGBTIQ+ people, are particularly affected because they tend to suffer from several discrimination factors. The reasons behind period poverty are clearly economic, but not exclusively. Access to information and social context (menstrual taboos) also play a part, as does the mental burden of anticipating that time of the month. 

Other projects are being planned, particularly around menstruation and menstrual taboos. The next edition of Equality Week in the City of Geneva is scheduled for March 2022 and will focus on issues to do with “Gender, body and taboos”. 

List of places participating in the pilot project

  • Plainpalais community centre
  • Chausse-Coq community centre
  • Eaux-Vives community centre
  • Asters/Servette community centre
  • Vieusseux community centre
  • Saint-Jean community centre
  • Le 99 community centre
  • Sécheron community centre
  • Frank Thomas emergency shelter
  • Rive gauche social club
  • HUMA (Paidos)
  • Point d’eau (Carrefour-Rue)
  • La Galerie
  • Cité library
  • Servette library
  • Ethnography Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • Queue d’Arve sports centre
  • Le Refuge/Dialogai
  • Checkpoint
  • CAUSE (2 locations)
  • Aux 6-Logis (3 locations)
  • Camarada (2 locations)
  • Aspasie (3 locations)

Map showing the vending machines in the city.

For more information see www.geneve.ch/stop-precarite-menstruelle

Contact

Anne Bonvin Bonfanti

Département des finances, de l'environnement et du logement

Conseillère de direction

5, rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville

1204

Genève

Suisse

Tél. +41 22 418 22 43

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Article modifié le 31.08.2021 à 14:22