Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, has launched a pilot project to offer free period products to middle school students, a first for Taiwan and Asia.
The initiative, sponsored by sanitary product company Kotex, was first announced in April and will be trialed for one semester starting September in five middle schools in the capital with the goal of expanding to cover the rest of Taipei’s middle and high schools.
Students at the schools will be able to collect boxes containing various types of menstrual pads from free dispensers in the women’s bathrooms.
City officials said the schools will also integrate relevant sex education into the curriculum.
Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je said the project’s goal is to promote gender equality and end the stigma surrounding periods, as well as the issue of period poverty.
Period poverty – when people cannot access basic sanitary products when they need them – may occur due to a variety of factors, from poverty, homelessness, abusive relationships, some health conditions and being transgender.
In Taiwan, people in Taiwan can spend up to an average of NT$100,000, or about US$3,500, during their lifetime on period products, according to Ko.
Ko said that the city was following in the footsteps of the UK, which abolished tampon tax; New Zealand and Scotland, which made period products free for all students and people respectively.
“We hope to help people understand that menstrual pads are just as normal as toilet paper,” Ko, who is a doctor, wrote on his Facebook page. “Girls don’t have to hide or feel embarrassed or ashamed when they are holding a menstrual pad. It’s a part of life, and it is a part of you.”