Available data shows that nearly 500,000 women in Poland cannot afford to buy the hygiene products they need during menstruation, such as menstrual pads and tampons, and as many as 39 percent of those from poor households are forced to forego their menstrual products in favour of other purchases. ‘These are terrifying numbers. Yet, menstruation is a natural physiological occurrence that almost half of the society experiences for a huge part of their lives’, emphasised Olga Kozierowska, President of Sukces Pisany Szminką [Success Written in Lipstick] Foundation. And, she points out, the lack of proper hygiene products is not only a matter of discomfort. It may lead to neglecting one’s school and work – out of embarrassment related to the risk of walking around in bloodstained clothing – and to serious health problems such as urogenital infections. All of this contributes to the exclusion of women in both education and in professional life.
Still, even though this is a serious problem and affects so many people, Poles are only just starting to talk about it. ‘I am extremely happy about initiatives such as the effort by the Pink Box Foundation to ensure access to free menstrual pads and tampons in public spaces. Last year brought some buzz about the introduction of pink boxes in certain schools. This alone, however, is not enough. Poland still needs adequate legislation, and the topic of menstruation is still a no-go for many people’, asserted Olga Kozierowska. She also cited research by the Kulczyk Foundation, which found that nearly one-third of Polish women feel embarrassment during menstruation, 40 percent hide their menstrual pads on the way to the restroom, and 25 percent believe that women should not talk about menstruation in the presence of men. In comparison, according to a US study, more than a half of men consider it inappropriate to mention menstruation at work.
As part of the activities of the Success Written in Lipstick Foundation, Olga Kozierowska highlights the importance of diversity in business. The Foundation team also recognises companies that care about such diversity by offering the Businesswoman of the Year awards. The Foundation President passionately believes that ‘Diversity is exactly about ensuring all employees feel comfortable in the workplace, enjoy equal opportunities and feel accepted. Combatting menstrual exclusion is as important in caring about diversity and preventing discrimination as – for example – eliminating the wage gap and glass ceiling, which have been topics of discussion for a long time. Plus, it neither requires any special effort, nor any significant financial investment.’
She is firm that employers should – first and foremost – provide their employees with access to free hygiene products. ‘After all, nobody denies the fact that workplace restrooms should have toilet paper and soap. This also helps to normalise menstruation and have it be considered an ordinary part of everyday live, which it actually is’, explained Kozierowska.
It is also paramount to understand that menstruation is associated with discomforts that can affect the quality of one’s work. ‘Maybe one day we can witness the introduction of statutory menstrual leave in Poland. However, for now, what we can do is simply to be empathetic and enable people to work from home or to finish work early. More and more companies are also choosing to introduce menstrual leave internally. It is an initiative that translates into employees’ positive sentiments towards the company, higher productivity and reduced absenteeism,’ concluded the President of the Success Written in Lipstick Foundation.
Source: Dziennik Gazeta Prawna