PETALING JAYA: A women’s rights group has welcomed the Perak government’s move to introduce vending machines for sanitary pads, but says there is a need to look at period poverty more holistically.
All Women’s Action Society (Awam) project researcher Asrawati Awalina Aslan said vending machines for sanitary pads would allow those who need them to access them more easily.
However, she said, other aspects of period poverty, including access to sanitation, hygiene infrastructure, and access to correct information on menstruation, must also be addressed.
“Different communities might encounter different aspects of period poverty. For example, Orang Asli communities might encounter not just inaccessibility to sanitary products, but also a lack of access to hygiene and sanitation infrastructure and inadequate awareness of menstruation.
“So, providing these vending machines alone to these communities is not enough when it comes to addressing the issue of period poverty as a whole,” she said.
Asrawati was commenting on reports that Perak will install sanitary pad vending machines in schools and recreational areas, as one of the measures to address period poverty in the state.
Meanwhile, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) research and advocacy officer Anis Farid said it was crucial to recognise the complexity of the period poverty issue at the policymaking and budget allocation level.
She also said budgetary allocations must consider the needs of people who menstruate, including the need for proper access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
“Consulting with people in rural areas or those who work directly with these communities, such as NGOs and academics, and asking what they need to have a dignified period, must also be part of the solution,” she told FMT.
Asrawati also urged the government to list sanitary pads and products as essential items to be included in the government’s price control scheme to ensure their affordability.
“To offset costs of initiative implementation, the government can also consider making sanitary pads free of charge for communities of low socioeconomic status and at certain spaces such as schools.
“At the same time, the government can make them available at controlled prices in other areas, such as malls where users are relatively more able to afford sanitary product purchases,” she said.
Anis shared similar sentiments, saying the issue of access was more about affordability rather than availability.