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West Tokyo program is the first of its kind in Japan.

Keiko Ikeda, a city councilwoman for Tama City, one of the western districts of Tokyo, was startled by a recent survey showing that 20 percent of respondents are struggling with the cost of feminine hygiene products during the pandemic-caused economic downturn. Together with the eight other female members of the council, last week Ikeda submitted a request to Tama mayor Hiroyuki Abe asking for government action to help relieve such economic burdens for women. One of the requests was for schools to distribute products free of charge to students, and that’s what started happening the very next day.

On March 17, 26 public elementary and junior high schools in Tama began placing sanitary napkins in their girls’ restrooms, or distributing them on request from the nurse’s office. “Feminine hygiene products are necessities,” stressed Ikeda, “but there are children who can’t have their parents purchase them for them, and they need our support.”

In addition to financial concerns, the Tama board of education hopes that being able to obtain napkins anonymously, or at least directly from a nurse, will be of benefit to children who, for whatever reason, don’t feel uncomfortable discussing their menstruation status and cycles with their parents, yet are unable to buy the products they need on their own.

A total of 1,664 napkins, sourced from the city’s disaster relief stockpile, are being distributed to schools. While free distribution of feminine hygiene products is also taking place at the ward offices of Tokyo’s Toshima and Adachi Wards this month, Tama’s program is the first in Japan to be carried out at children’s educational institutions. “This is the first, and most immediate, step we can take” said Abe, implying that other measures are also being considered and may be coming in …continue reading