Lidl Northern Ireland is set to become the first supermarket retailer in Northern Ireland to provide free period products to customers in need as part of a major new initiative aimed at tackling period poverty.
The new initiative, which is being backed by Homeless Period Belfast, will see the retailer offer a dedicated coupon for a free box of sanitary pads or tampons per customer each month, redeemed through the Lidl Plus app.
Since April, Lidl NI has also been making regular donations of sanitary wear to the Simon Community Northern Ireland to ensure people experiencing homelessness - who may not have access to a smartphone - can access these essential products.
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Period poverty is described as the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management, and is a growing issue in Northern Ireland which has become more prevalent since the Covid-19 pandemic.
A survey by equality charity Plan International UK recently found that more than a third (36%) of girls aged 14-21 in the UK have struggled to afford or access period products during the Coronavirus pandemic - up a fifth on last year.
The Homeless Period Belfast was established in 2016 to raise awareness of period poverty locally. The volunteer-led, not-for-profit group works to provide period products to those in need and actively campaigns for free period products for all girls and women across the region.
Katrina McDonnell, Founder of Homeless Period Belfast, said: “Since establishing The Homeless Period Belfast in 2016, we’ve distributed thousands of period care packs to those in need of period wear. We support a wide range of people in need, from rough sleepers and the homeless, to people who depend on foodbanks, refugees and asylum seekers to teenagers living in poverty and community youth groups.
“Period poverty is a very real issue for many across Northern Ireland. Last year, we experienced three times the usual demand for our period packs and this is only increasing. No one should have to experience a period without a supply of suitable period products. It’s important that we continue to shine a light on the issue and encourage conversations around it to break the taboo that surrounds menstruation.
“I’m thrilled to see Lidl NI leading the way in tackling this issue head on. It’s really encouraging to see a major business like Lidl recognise the role they can play in helping eradicate period poverty and to take action to support disadvantaged people in the long-term. I hope that today’s announcement paves the way for other retailers to follow suit and join the fight to end period poverty in Northern Ireland.”
The announcement comes after Lidl Ireland successfully rolled out the scheme in the Republic of Ireland earlier this year which has seen more than 20,000 sign ups to avail of the coupon, and follows the launch of the Lidl Plus app in Northern Ireland in May.
Conor Boyle, Regional Director of Lidl NI, continued: “I am very proud to announce the launch of a brand-new initiative by Lidl NI to provide free period products to shoppers in need and charity service users right across the region. In working with Homeless Period Belfast and the Simon Community Northern Ireland, it’s been sobering to learn the full extent of period poverty within Northern Ireland and to understand the level of support required to those in need.
“Access to safe, effective and hygienic period products is a basic right for those who menstruate and it’s shocking to hear that many are having to rely on local charities or less than suitable alternative materials to provide this. As a family retailer very much embedded in our local communities, we know we have a critical role to play in helping tackle this issue.
“I’m delighted that Lidl NI is the first supermarket to introduce such a scheme and to further support our communities by opening up access to essential period products for all of our customers. In working with the Simon Community Northern Ireland, we’re also continuing to provide monthly donations to ensure those harder to reach groups are also supported.”
Brian Shanks from the Simon Community Northern Ireland, added: “The announcement by Lidl NI is hugely significant and a real step forward in the fight to end period poverty here. Access to sanitary products can be particularly challenging for people experiencing homelessness and Lidl NI’s continued, regular donations to our services will improve our supply of these essential items. For those in need, this new initiative means greater access to sanitary products when they need them and I commend Lidl NI for taking the lead in tackling this issue head on.”
Shoppers can redeem free period products from their local store by signing up to receive a free monthly coupon through the Lidl Plus app from this week.
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