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Scotland’s vote to make menstrual hygiene products free and available in public buildings marks a huge victory in the international fight against period poverty. (Credit: Playtex Sport Regular Scented Tampon Review, Wikimedia Commons)

Period poverty is a critical issue that impacts at least 500 million people with periods worldwide. Scotland is showing the world how to (hopefully) make that problem a thing of the past.

Scottish Parliament recently voted unanimously to make necessities like tampons and pads both free and readily available in public spaces. The Period Products bill mandates that personal hygiene products be distributed in locations like schools, and that both local authorities and heads of education ensure that no one is charged for them in those venues.

[Related: Women Entrepreneurs Tackling Access to Birth Control, Period Products and More]

It was reportedly a popular bit of legislation from the start. “The campaign has been backed by a wide coalition, including trades unions, women’s organizations and charities,” Monica Lennon, the lawmaker behind the bill, told CNN before the decision was handed down. “Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history.”

She reiterated the latter point once the votes were cast, stating that Scotland was sending “a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved.”

[Related: The Story Exchange Podcast, Ep. 30 — All About Those Periods]

It’s an especially important matter now, as the coronavirus crisis — and the economic catastrophe that came with it — has only made the problem worse. But the cost of such products, or the inability to access them in remote corners of the world, was always prohibitive to some. Period stigmas and taboos not only worsened the issue, but made it harder to address.

That’s what makes Scotland’s decision so historic, as it both frankly discusses and attempts to rectify a major problem faced by people with periods. It’s no cure-all, but it’s a fantastic start — and it would be great to see other nations quickly follow suit.

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