Assuring ‘Sustainable and Healthy Toxic Free Periods’ in North Macedonia  

‘Sustainable and Healthy Toxic Free Periods’, was a campaign, launched by our Macedonian partner Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) aiming to inform and promote solutions to fight menstrual poverty and menstrual products harmful to our health and the environment in the republic of North Macedonia.  

When you think about it, without access to clean water and toilets, menstrual health can be quite difficult to manage for women and girls. This is certainly the case in North Macedonia, where – according to research conducted by representatives of JHR- there is an issue with the management of menstrual health. The reason for this are inadequate conditions for managing menstrual hygiene at school or workplace and the high cost of menstrual protection products.  

 The figures speak for themselves. The data from the research on menstrual poverty (survey by Human Rights Journalists) in Northern Macedonia show that 29.5% of women in North Macedonia country can not afford any access to menstrual products for menstrual health management (MHM), thus use newspapers, paper or self-made pads from textile instead of standard products. Homemade or disposable menstrual products are not only harmful to the environment but they may also be harmful to our health. 

Unfortunately, access to healthy menstrual products has a price in Northern Macedonia. The cost analysis for menstrual products shows that in Northern Macedonia women are willing to reserve up to 100 denars per months (= 1,62€) for menstrual health management, while the price of the most used and highest quality products is 150 denars (=2,43€). These cost do not even include medicine for pain management, which on average increases the monthly menstrual health budget by 150 denars. 

Investing in menstrual health is investing in healthy generations

For Natasha Dokovska, director of JHR, it is clear. Investing in menstrual health is investing in healthy generations. “We created a FREE PERIOD badge , and everyone who wants to support our initiative and get this badge should bring a package of menstrual products that will then be distributed throughout the schools, in order for every girl to receive a free package of menstrual products!”

Making menstrual products accessible and affordable to all is not just a question of health. As a result of not having access to menstrual health management facilities, girls and women lag behind in society, thus hindering their opportunities for equality and participation in public life. Yet, these rights are supposed to be protected by the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The country ratified the convention in 1994. A big part of the ‘Sustainable and Healthy Toxic Free Periods’ is to assert these rights for women.

To that end, Journalists for Human Rights set up a fund in 2019 to eradicate menstrual poverty and demande safe MHM in the country. With the support received from Natracare, JHR advocated for reducing the tax rate for menstrual hygiene products from 18% to 5%, and for giving benefits to companies that would engage in the production and sale of environmentally safe menstrual products and including management of menstrual health in gender budgeting. While at the same time raising awareness on the very importance of this topic. 

 This project was made possible thanks to a donation by Natracare