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Free sanitary pad supply helps support pandemic-hit poor in Kanagawa Pref.

Various types of feminine hygiene products are lined up in a store in Tokyo on Feb. 5, 2021. (Mainichi/Miyuki Fujisawa)

YOKOHAMA -- Amid a nationwide rise in the number of women who are unable to purchase enough sanitary napkins due to decreased earnings amid the coronavirus, more municipalities and private firms south of Tokyo have been supplying them for free.

    While more women have been struggling to get by during the pandemic, a support group in Kanagawa Prefecture says the issue has "garnered increasing attention" and hopes more people will become aware of the problems behind it.

    On June 1, the Kanagawa Prefectural Board of Education began a model project by equipping the girls' bathrooms at a total of 12 prefectural high schools and special-needs high schools with sanitary napkins. Boxes were set up near sinks and other places, and they are refilled by teachers and students.

    Although schools had previously distributed sanitary pads at school infirmaries, a survey in which the prefectural education board collected the opinions of school nurses uncovered claims that there were students who faced difficulties in securing menstrual sanitary goods. The model project is set to continue through the end of August, with the aim of grasping students' needs. A representative of the Kanagawa Prefectural Government's health and physical education section commented, "We'd like to take measures as soon as possible amid the coronavirus pandemic."

    There have also been local governments in Kanagawa Prefecture that began handing out sanitary napkins for free at schools and municipal offices. The city of Yamato has placed pouches containing feminine hygiene products in female restrooms of all its municipal elementary and junior high schools. In the city of Fujisawa, sanitary pads from its emergency supplies are being distributed for free to residents as well as to students who go to schools in the city. The sanitary goods are handed out at the municipal government building, the city council of social welfare and other locations, and anyone can receive the supplies if they present a designated card which can be found at the information desk. The mayor of Sagamihara answered during a June municipal assembly session that he was also considering distributing sanitary goods for free. The city will hand out pads at childrearing support centers and other locations from June 14.

    A center in the city of Kawasaki that aims for a gender equal society has been giving out feminine hygiene products for free from its supplies collected through donations from bodies including "Studio Clip," a firm in the city that runs eateries. The sanitary napkins are handed out together with flyers showing contact information of consultation windows.

    The center commented, "The 'period poverty' issue is not a problem related to only concerned parties. We'd like people to know that there is a preexisting structural issue, and us to expand efforts aiming for a solution."

    (Japanese original by Nami Takata, Yokohama Bureau)

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