Iliana is 13 and she is in 7th grade. She lives in a village 12 kilometres away from Skopje, along with her parents, grandmother and 3 sisters aged 10-17 years. On the day of our visit, she was not at school, she was carrying … Her grandmother, Persia, quietly, so as not to hear her granddaughter tells us she is not at school because she “has a period” since yesterday.

– I did not let her go to school today – explains the grandmother – we did not have pads, and it is not nice to go and bleed … So, let her sit at home … not to laugh children in school, because the newspapers she uses for protection may miss. Home is at home, whatever happens, it will be sealed.

Grandma says this is the case with all 4 grandchildren because they are unable to buy hygienic pads for all. Only for the mother must have, because she must go to work because at present she is the only one who brings home income, the father of the children is unemployed, and the grandmother has a minimal, agricultural pension that she inherited after the death of her husband.

This is just one of the many examples.

From the results obtained from a survey conducted by Journalists for Human Rights conducted between April 3 and May 20 this year, we can conclude that we have a problem with maintaining menstrual hygiene, as can be seen from the data that 90% of students in the rural areas in Macedonia are absent from 4 to 5 days during the month of school when they have a monthly cycle, while 75% of the students in the urban areas are absent 2-3 days during the month due to the same reasons.

The reason for this is in: inadequate conditions for maintaining menstrual hygiene in schools/workplaces and the high cost of the maintenance of menstrual hygiene. In Macedonia, only in 1 private school, there are conditions/facilities for the MHM in the municipality of Veles, and in no school, there are no suitable products for MHM (soap, toilet paper, water) nor adequate places for removing waste for MHM.

On the question of the JHR do they have conditions for maintaining menstrual hygiene at work/school – 90% of the respondents answered negatively, of which 70% answered that they do not have adequate conditions for maintaining menstrual hygiene, while 25% of the respondents answered that they work outdoors and have no access to toilets.

On the question – What kind of hygienic means do you use for menstrual hygiene maintenance? – over 80 per cent said they use hygienic pads, 5 per cent use tampons, while 15 per cent said they do not use any hygienic means during the monthly cycle, that is, they handle textile self-made pads or paper/newspapers. The reason for this is the high cost of the sheets that can not be afforded by multi-family families where women are prevailing. For menstrual cups, only three respondents know, but no one used it, and 63% of women answered that they would use a hygienic lid for more use. The largest percentage of them believe that one such pad would be more affordable, and 30% would also benefit from the reduction of pollution.

The data from the research motivated the representatives of the NGO to call down the price of hygienic pads, lower the tax rate for hygienic pads – they are not luxury goods and require maintenance of menstrual hygiene to enter gender budgeting (all public institutions/schools yes allow for dignified management of the same). That means in every toilet or at least one to meet the standards – to have water, a toilet and boxes for selecting the waste.

At the same time, the JHR’s expert team proposed a multi-use pad (its composition and a proposal for its production) which was accepted as the best solution for the only scientific gathering on this issue in Tampere, Finland – only the company that will produce it and will affect a reduction in the cost of maintaining menstrual hygiene, reduce environmental pollution and have a protective role on the reproductive health of a woman …

– The insert is meant to be made of 4 layers of organic material and its “shelf life” of 8-12 months. The price of such an insole should not cost more than 300 denars, which if we divide it for 12 months, the cost of monthly maintenance of menstrual hygiene would decrease several times – says Natasa Dokovska from the JHR.

The NGOs are urging local businessmen and interested parties to start production of a multi-use hygienic pen, which, in addition to affecting the maintenance of menstrual hygiene from all, will affect the reduction of diseases related to the reproductive health of women, as well as the reduction the pollution of the environment caused by the waste. Just how much of a woman, during her reproductive life, throw away from 11,000 to 13,000 pads or tampons, which, according to their composition, are difficult to decompose. Exemplified pads may contain harsh chemicals including pesticides and dioxins, a serious environmental pollutant. In landfills, these substances can reach groundwater, creating pollution and affecting health.