Cr Hakim leads way for free sanitary trial

Cr Hakim leads way for free sanitary trial
Sean Car

New councillor and Docklands resident Jamal Hakim has led an initiative which will see the City of Melbourne become the first council in Australia to trial free sanitary products for women and girls in six council facilities.

In a bid to end what Cr Hakim called “period poverty”, a term used to describe the inability to purchase sanitary products for managing menstruation, councillors unanimously supported a trial at its April 20 Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting.

As deputy chair of the council’s health, wellbeing and belonging portfolio, Cr Hakim’s motion will now see free products rolled out to six facilities (locations to be confirmed) in what is hoped will become a permanent service offered by the council.

Speaking at the FMC meeting on April 20, Melbourne Period Project founder and Victorian recipient of the 2021 Australian of the Year award Donna Stalzenburg said she began the campaign to end “period poverty” after supporting many who were living with it.

“I started this project after seeing someone experiencing ‘period poverty’ outside Flinders St. It’s a humiliating and degrading situation,” she said.

“Not everybody is comfortable going to council buildings so if toilets and other facilities could be equipped it would be great.”

Cr Hakim described the initiative as a simple and inexpensive service that would have a “profound impact” for women and girls.

“The fact is we know that there are persons in Australia today who use socks, or a newspaper, or rolled up toilet paper as a result. That is not acceptable,” he said.

“Now imagine the stigma of all of this, and being unable to participate in your community because you could not afford to buy the products you need for menstrual hygiene.”

“As a local council, we are at the heart of it. The closest level of government to the day-to-day lives of the people who interact with our municipality. We operate and deliver services directly to diverse people and we are therefore well positioned to enable this.”

Cr Olivia Ball, who seconded the motion, said the initiative was about dignity. “It is the basis of human rights,” she said.

In supporting the motion, Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said it was something that should have been implemented a long time ago.

“Let’s face it … if blokes had periods, we would have done this decades ago,” he said •

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