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West Japan city to start free sanitary pad supply amid coronavirus pandemic

The Akashi Municipal Government is seen in this Sept. 26, 2019 file photo. (Mainichi/Toshihiro Hamamoto)

AKASHI, Hyogo -- The government of this western Japan city is set to supply sanitary napkins for free at municipal schools and public facilities from April in a bid to support women thrown into an economic predicament due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The move comes as voices of concern were raised by local educators that it is difficult for some students to purchase sanitary pads because of their pandemic-hit household budgets.

    A total of 43 public schools in the city -- from elementary schools, junior high and senior high schools to special needs schools -- will be covered by the program, with additional pads being regularly stocked at school nurse's offices.

    In addition, sanitary napkins will also be equipped at facilities for socializing among junior high and senior high school students, as well as a multipurpose bathroom near JR Akashi Station.

    The city is allocating the surplus of this fiscal year's spending for consumables and is also looking into formulating a supplementary budget for the initiative.

    According to a survey by a citizens' group called "#Minna no Seiri," which focuses on raising awareness and educating people about women's periods, one in five students and others had difficulty obtaining menstrual sanitary goods due to financial reasons over the past year.

    Akashi Mayor Fusaho Izumi told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We'd like to continually respond to children's poverty and students' struggles as their voices are hard to be heard and noticed amid the effects of the coronavirus pandemic."

    The issue of so-called "period poverty" in Japan has become widely recognized lately as it is often difficult for women to speak out about the problem. The Toshima Ward Office in Tokyo, meanwhile, began a free sanitary pad handout from March 15.

    (Japanese original by Toshihiro Hamamoto, Akashi Local Bureau)

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