The newly appointed Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa announced that her ministerial office will be giving out free sanitary pads in an effort to combat period poverty.
Speaking at the ministry’s monthly assembly, Dr Zaliha said that she intends to make menstrual products accessible in the restrooms of her office and the Health Ministry complex before expanding to other ministerial ones.
“As the first female health minister, I have to do my part to address period poverty,” she said.
“I had previously worked on this issue with NGOs (non-governmental organizations), but that was on a smaller scale.”
“I believe that it is now time to address the matter on a policy level,” she was quoted as saying by The Vibes.
Meanwhile, Dr Zaliha also told the reporters that the initiative’s expansion to other ministries was contingent on how well it was received.
She added that her ministry will conduct a study on ways to alleviate period poverty concerns in Budget 2023.
“We will see what can be upgraded in Budget 2023. This free menstrual products in her office is our kick-off point,” she said.
This initiative could be expanded
When asked if her initiative to reduce period poverty will include menstrual awareness campaigns, Dr Zaliha stated that this will require the cooperation of other agencies.
Earlier, Bukit Melawati assemblyperson Juwairiya Zulkifli said Selangor will implement a free sanitary pad program as part of its RM2.45 billion Budget 2023.
Juwairiya said this programme will not only help the recipients but also lessen the stigma associated with difficulties related to period poverty.
“Among the groups at risk of facing such a situation are women in rural areas, the urban poor, and the extreme poor,” she said.
Period poverty is not something new in Malaysia, but it is considered taboo to be discussed, and it remains a pandora box of the society.