Period poverty is a prevalent problem in Hungary – hundreds of menstruating people, mostly young girls and women suffer from it. However, it’s not an issue that has sparked a political debate or media sensation. There have been a few articles and campaigns related to period poverty but a national program and further research are still non-existent, yet much needed. In this article, I explore the issue of period poverty in Hungary and why, as a young and feminist journalist, I need support to research and inform others on this issue. 

Period poverty means a lack of access to sanitary products, appropriate washing facilities and disposal facilities. It may be caused by financial issues or a lack of education in the more traditional areas of Hungary. Those affected by period poverty often have to skip school or work and stay at home. Many use alternative products, including newspapers or pieces of cloth like socks to protect themselves from leaking in public. Obviously, these methods are not safe, hygienic or sustainable. 

In Hungary, a country of 9,7 million people, approximately 20% of the families are living in poverty or are at risk of poverty, according to Eurostat. The Hungarian Red Cross has provided sanitary products to almost 4,500 young girls. It’s likely that the number of people in need is even greater.

Passing period pads in the bathroom | Photo by Annika Gordon on Unsplash

Like the Red Cross, there are some NGOs in Hungary collecting and delivering menstruation products, but they can’t keep up with the demand. At this point, government action is needed. 

One option for the government would be to follow the example of France and Germany by reducing the tax on sanitary items. But the best solution would be to scrap this tax altogether as New Zealand and the UK plan to. In Hungary, tampons and pads are sold at 27% tax, just like everything else. Some politicians have raised their voices on this issue, but the prime minister, Viktor Orbán and his national-conservative party, Fidesz don’t see the high tampon tax as a problem. It’s not a surprise: the same government refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention in 2020 and banned gender studies at colleges in 2018.

Women rarely dare to ask for help from social workers or professionals, such as teachers or doctors, as they are ashamed of both poverty and periods.

In Hungary, period poverty affects girls and women in the poorest, rural areas. In many of these households, there is no running water. Those who menstruate, often aren’t able to  wash properly and are ridiculed for the bad smell. Additionally, many living in cities, university students and low-wage workers, for example, struggle to afford sanitary items too due to its extortionate price.

Young woman walking in Budapest center | Photo by xandro Vandewalle on Unsplash

Women rarely dare to ask for help from social workers or professionals, such as teachers or doctors, as they are ashamed of both poverty and periods. Both of these topics are taboo. Maybe this is the reason why we know very little about period poverty in Hungary.

Hungary is currently ranked number 89 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index created by Reporters Without Borders. That is the second-worst ranking in the European Union. The pro-government media foundation, the Central European Press and Media Foundation (abbreviated as KESMA in Hungarian) dominates the media, most independent newspapers are struggling to survive, and non-government friendly journalists barely have access to information, as they are banned from many events. 

With your support, I will be able to report on period poverty in Hungary and hopefully trigger a campaign to tackle Hungary’s period poverty situation.

Topics related to poverty or feminism are generally overlooked or ignored by the government-friendly media, and independent news sources often can’t afford to buy feature articles that require weeks of research. As a result, as a young freelance journalist myself, I cannot carry out an in-depth investigation into period poverty without funding. This is why I’m raising funds for my project with Press Start, a crowdfunding platform for journalists. With your support, I will be able to report on period poverty in Hungary and hopefully trigger a campaign to tackle Hungary’s period poverty situation.

I aim to research and write about Hungary’s period poverty problem and raise awareness on this issue. To do so, I will interview Hungarian NGOs, teachers, doctors and social workers around the country. In addition, I will work on a solutions journalism piece with British organisations and activists fighting period poverty, like the Red Box Project. With this, I aim to get published and  to create a ripple effect against period poverty in Hungary.

If you would like to support my research please donate or share my campaign. 

Lili Rutai
info@pressstart.org
Lili Rutai is a Hungarian journalist and host of Hungarian feminist podcast, Vénusz Projekt. Her work has been published in Atlatszo, 24.hu, Élet és Irodalom and WMN Magazin. Her goal “is to shine a light on the social inequalities in Hungary, with a pinch of feminism". You can follow Lili on Twitter and Instagram at @lilirutai.

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