Who is Monica Lennon? Meet the woman behind Scotland's iconic move to make sanitary products free
The products will be available for free in public buildings, including schools and universities, across Scotland, while education providers and local authorities will provide these products for free
Taking an iconic move, Scotland has now become the first country to provide free menstrual products, including sanitary pads and tampons, to the general public. The action comes after Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon campaigned for three years to end period poverty in the country.
The products will be available for free in public buildings, including schools and universities, across Scotland. Education providers and local authorities will be providing these products for free. "The campaign has been backed by a wide coalition, including trades unions, women's organizations and charities," Monica Lennon, the lawmaker who introduced the bill in 2019, said ahead of the vote. "Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history," she added. After the voting got over, Lennon stated that the decision came out like "a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved".
“This is a bold and ground-breaking piece of legislation. I hope it will inspire other countries to follow our lead and normalize the notion that period poverty just isn’t acceptable. No girl or woman should have to worry about being able to afford or have access to period products," she said. ”There have been great initiatives in other parts of the world where different regions or sectors have taken action, but this legislation is comprehensive. It will tackle provision within education settings but also ensure that all women can access products if they need them, no matter where they are. It really shouldn’t be a big deal. When you go into the toilet, you expect toilet paper to be there and you should be able to expect period products as well," she added.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, the Scottish Government vowed $6,185,505 (£5.2million) to provide sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities. The Period Products bill was introduced by Lennon in April 2019 and will supposedly cost around $11,622,286 (£8.7million) a year. “Over the pandemic, we have looked at this through a new lens. But periods don’t end in a pandemic and, if anything, the problem of period poverty has got even worse, so we need this more than ever now. Yes, there will be a financial cost but it is also reasonable to ask whether we can afford not to take action," she said.
“We know that this problem is real and we also know that many women and girls suffer in silence – it is common for people to lose out on time and work or in education. In 2016, when I was first elected to the Scottish Parliament, I wanted to find out whether the Scottish Government had any plans to address the issue of people having to go to food banks for period products because that’s what was happening. In the early stages, we were having to prove that this was a real problem, that period poverty existed. Part of proving our case was encouraging people to share their stories, which was difficult, especially for younger people who had perhaps missed out on school or work," she added.
"We are now at a place where, thanks to people speaking out, it is accepted that the period poverty has to change. The new provision will not be means-tested. That is really important because people don’t want to have to talk about their personal situation," she further said. Meetings on the draft of the bill took place in 2017.
Born in January 1981, Lennon worked as MSP since 2016, for the Central Scotland region. Lennon, who is a member of the Scottish Labour Party, she has been its Spokesperson for Health and Sport since 2018. "Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them. An important policy for women and girls," Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted.
Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them. An important policy for women and girls. Well done to @MonicaLennon7 @ClydesdAileen and all who worked to make it happen https://t.co/4lckZ4ZYIY— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 24, 2020
As soon as the news came to the fore, people started reacting to it. One Internet user wrote, "Scotland makes feminine products free, pink tax in America still has women paying out the vagina." Another said, "This might seem like such an insignificant thing, but it is a major initial step toward establishing necessary economic equality, and a pivotal concept for women and girls in many countries. Scotland continually impresses me."
Scotland makes feminine products free, pink tax in America still has women paying out the vagina.— 🧹HEX THE PATRIARCHY🧹 (@MichelleHaak2) November 24, 2020
This might seem like such an insignificant thing, but it is a major initial step toward establishing necessary economic equality, and a pivotal concept for women and girls in many countries. Scotland continually impresses me. https://t.co/54Nek0hPMG— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) November 25, 2020
While some were so happy that they said, "Think I may have to move to Scotland. This is such a good move and a step in the right direction!" and "Scotland has become the first nation in the world to universally provide free period products. Just incredible!"
Think I may have to move to Scotland 👀— Sara ⁷ 🖤 ᴮᴱ 🎄 (@myeuphoriapjm) November 24, 2020
This is such a good move and a step in the right direction! pic.twitter.com/R99OpFayAD