With Labour’s Rebecca Moynihan and Fianna Fáil’s Lorraine Clifford-Lee both submitting legislation on tackling period poverty in Ireland to the Seanad, youth volunteers from Abolish Direct Provision have gathered together to set up a campaign, in the hopes that free period products would be provided to women in Direct Provision.
The bills, if passed, would provide free period products in schools, education institutions and public service buildings. The bill also places an onus on the Minister for Health to engage in an information campaign to ensure people know where to obtain the products. In November 2020, Scotland became the first in the world to make period products free, it is time that other countries follow.
It is a struggle for women in direct provision. While some centres do provide period products for free, centres are not obliged to do so and therefore not all centres provide these necessary items for free. Asylum seekers only get €38 a week. Many centres have in-house shops attached to them. In the newly opened direct provision centre in Donegal, it was reported that asylum seekers must buy from the in-house shop and they are not allowed to visit other shops in the local area, such as Lidl. Period products can be quite expensive, as well as this they must buy their own toilet paper, nappies (that range from €10-15) and any other womanly items. The €38 is not enough. Because of this low income, many asylum seekers resort to prostitution. Some asylum seekers suffer from mental health issues and as a result, there have been many miscarriages in direct provision. Abolish Direct Provision have recently set up a pregnancy kit project, that provides pregnancy tests, dressing gowns, slippers and much more for pregnant asylum seekers. Once the baby is born, the State only gives the mothers a once off payment of €50. This is why the pregnancy kit project has been a success. The non-profit organisation welcomes any donations from the public to help these mothers.
Knowing all this, youth activists from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Social Democrats, People Before Profit, Green Party and the Labour Party decided to put political differences aside to work with each other on these issues. They decided to set up a pledge, similar to Fingal Against Racism’s anti-racism pledge set up during the general election. All elected reps, North and South, who sign, must promise to tackle period poverty in direct provision. In just 3 days, the campaign got a lot of attention and over 200 signatures so far, from all major parties like Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Social Democrats, Aontú, Labour, Green Party, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, SDLP and a few Independents. The campaign has got the attention of Labour leader, Alan Kelly, Social Democrats leader, Roisín Shortall, Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty, SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, People Before Profit leader, Richard Boyd Barrett, Fianna Fáil MEP, Billy Kelleher and much more.
Fianna Fáil youth activists, Méabh Cusack and Sorcha Ní Chonghaile managed to attract 76 Fianna Fáil elected reps to sign the pledge and will continue to contact their party for more. They both like the idea of working together to end the direct provision system. Labour’s Catherine Arnold and Green Party’s Vanessa Mulhall, whose parties are very interested in tackling period poverty, have been amazed with all the support they are getting from their party. People Before Profit’s Georgia Walsh, who wants all parties to unite to effectively abolish direct provision, is looking forward to elevating the voices of women asylum seekers during the planned International Women’s day event, that accompanies the campaign, on the 5th of March at 3pm on the topic of period poverty. Sinn Féin’s Brooke Ní Riagáin, who is only 16 but very passionate about this issue, thanks to all Sinn Féin reps who have signed the pledge and looks forward to speaking on this important issue on the 5th. Fine Gael’s Lucy Roche, has noticed that quite a lot of male politicians are getting back to her in full support for the campaign, which is great to see. Social Democrats’s Christine O’Mahony, who set up this campaign with Abolish Direct Provision and the other youth activists, wants to thank all elected reps who have signed the pledge, and is overwhelmed with all the support and hopes that Minister O’Gorman will tackle the issue of free period products in direct provision. This campaign has proven that we are stronger together and we can put political differences aside to help others.
All money raised before the event on the 5th, will go towards buying period products and essential items for women in direct provision. You can register for the event on the abolish direct provision website, www.directprovision.org.