RFSD Peer learning table on SDG 6

Thematic Block 1: Water for Health: make drinking water and sanitation available, safe, and affordable for all

Thank you Chair and discussants for your informative points and rich discussion.

My name is Amil Brkovic, I am from Bosnia and Herzegovina and part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) Stakeholder Group. I am speaking here today on behalf of Civil Society from the UNECE region.

I have yet to hear the room speak in depth about period justice.

I would like to start by saying that periods are EVERYONE’s issue.

Free period products are everyone’s right and a matter of urgency.

Yet, stigma, social taboos, binary notions of gender, and gender stereotypes continue to impact the accessibility, availability, and narrative around menstruation and menstrual health, not just in our region, but everywhere.

Governments continue to tax menstrual health products exorbitantly and dismiss that menstruation is not a luxury. High costs, barriers to knowledge and information, and unsensitized care leads to basic needs being unmet, social exclusion, and negative health outcomes.

Specifically, the menstrual health of young persons who menstruate with disabilities, trans men, gender non-binary persons, and those who live in rural areas, are indigenous, or face other intersecting forms of discrimination, are the most under addressed, if not completely forgotten.

Governments around the region are targeting transgender people and policing their ability to use bathrooms, leading to harassment, interrogation, and criminalization in public spaces.

Scapegoating transgender persons to divert attention away from blatant corruption, poverty, inequalities, and injustice, will not work forever, but it will lead to even more violence against these communities.

My youth peer from North Macedonia mentioned that in 16 years of going to school, she has never used the bathroom even once. Sanitation facilities are so poorly managed that they have a direct impact on young people’s access to education and wellbeing.

This is not an issue just in North Macedonia, lack of potable water supply in rural areas, dreadful sanitary conditions, lack of political will, poor infrastructure, and systemic forms of exclusion, also exist in my country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and all over the region.

We must employ an intersectional lens to address the inequalities in access to water and sanitation, including those that are perpetuating stigma and discrimination, and pushing many to the margins. We have real solutions to share from our region.

In North Macedonia, fierce activists were able to successfully push for tax reductions on menstrual products from 18% to 5%. They also pushed for the introduction of menstrual pads to be distributed free of charge in schools. In my country, we were also able to do the same with free menstrual pads, but only in the Canton of Sarajevo. We must scale up these tangible and impactful solutions nationwide and region-wide.

All politicians, including male politicians, must champion period justice. We need proper budgets for water and sanitation, to ensure that they meet the needs of all.

Again, I say, periods are every person’s issue!

Thank you.