Period Poverty in SpainOften, places that suffer from poverty also face period poverty issues. In Spain, two in 10 women reportedly suffer from period poverty. Fortunately, there are also people fighting against it, with Spain becoming the first European country to introduce menstrual leave at the beginning of 2023.

What is Period Poverty?

Menstruation is stigmatized and most women have inadequate access to health and hygiene services during their periods. As a result, the term “period poverty” emerged to describe the lack of access to menstrual products, menstrual education and sanitation.

In What Ways Does Period Poverty Affect Women?

Period poverty can affect women in a variety of ways.  Research shows that lack of access to affordable supplies has a negative impact on mental health. Similarly, women and girls face medical risks such as urinary and genital tract infections and toxic shock syndrome from wearing pads or tampons longer than the recommended time to cut expenses. Not having sufficient and appropriate means of access may further prevent people from attending school and engaging in the workforce as they fear leakage and public ridicule. In the long term, this can have a negative impact on the economic situation of women and girls.

How Does Spain Tackle Period Poverty?

Period poverty is not solely a phenomenon of the Global South. Women and girls in Spain report that up to 39.9% of them suffer from lifelong period poverty. To a large extent, period poverty in Spain particularly affects socioeconomically disadvantaged people, migrant groups and non-binary or trans-menstruating people. The Spanish government initiated a series of progressive legislative changes that are considered major steps in the fight against period poverty. In addition, several nongovernmental organizations are operating to bring the issue into the mainstream and advocate for women in precarious circumstances.

Tax Reduction

Previously, the Spanish government taxed menstrual products as “luxury goods” at a rate of 10%. As of September 2022, however, this has changed with a reduction in the tax rate to 4% and the renewed status of period products as “essential goods.” This change not only provides financial relief for women but also recognizes their needs. Though this tax cut is a decisive step toward ending period poverty in Spain, menstrual products are still not readily available for everyone.

Menstrual Leave Policy

In February 2023, Spain became the first European country to grant women the right to paid menstrual leave. In this way, the government addressed pain related to menstruation such as cramps, nausea or dizziness, which affects more than half of all menstruating women. Thus, with a medical certificate, they have the option of taking up to three days of paid leave, which can be extended to five days according to the severity of their pain.

NGO Power

The organization, Rezero, launched a project called “New Period” in Catalonia to fight period poverty in Spain. They pioneered the first network of menstruation-friendly toilets in the city of Barcelona with 100 contact points and additionally focused on the frequently neglected practice of including menstruation in the curriculum of Spanish schools. Moreover, Rezero prioritizes sustainability to the extent that its campaign promotes the purchase of reusable products through a directory of local and sustainable brands. Organizations such as Rezero ultimately show that menstrual equity is indeed possible.

Going Forward

Spain’s commitment to addressing period poverty paves the way for improved and more egalitarian living conditions for Spanish women and girls. While the achievements to date are important milestones, period poverty remains a complex problem. Moving forward, ongoing trends suggest that it is essential to achieve proficient levels of menstrual education and the free distribution of period products to ensure menstrual health in Spain.

– Miriam Schuller
Photo: Pixabay

poverty eradication in Spain
While Spain is officially classified as a high-income country, it is not exempt from unceasingly high rates of poverty. Philip Alston, a U.N. expert, recently commented that poverty rates in Spain are “appallingly high” and among the highest in all of Europe. However, efforts to achieve eventual poverty eradication in Spain are underway.


In 2018, over 26% of people in Spain were at high risk of poverty or social exclusion. Moreover, poverty particularly affected children (minors under the age of 18) — with nearly 33% of them either currently living in poverty, or at-risk. A contributing factor in the lingering poverty within these communities is the perpetuation of social immobility among citizens. According to Forbes, Spanish citizens born into families of wealth earn 40% more than people who are born into low-income households. The opportunities these people have to rise out of poverty on their own are nearly non-existent.

The Spanish government and nonprofit organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the issue of high poverty rates within the country. The government, along with other organizations are employing strategic innovations and other strategies every day to address poverty eradication in Spain. 

Government Innovations & Strategies

In March 2019, the National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion passed as a new poverty-reduction movement. With its effective timeline lasting through 2023, the strategy includes four key components: (1) the reduction of current poverty, (2) raising social investment in education and employment, (3) increased social protections for at-risk citizens and (4) improving the effectiveness of public policies surrounding poverty eradication in Spain. This movement serves as an important step for the country’s government because it creates a space to address poverty eradication in Spain on a federal level — catering to the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Spain has recently made vast improvements to its minimum income scheme. With the goal of bringing 1.6 million people out of poverty, the new plan will ensure that families have an income between $514 and $1,130 per month, depending on their eligibility. The social program will take into account the number of children per household, single-parent households, annual income and finally, assets. In the words of Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, this poverty reduction strategy has birthed “a new social right in Spain” and looks to dissolve deeply ingrained social inequalities among its people.

Nonprofit Initiatives

The Spanish government is not the only body taking action to alleviate poverty. Organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages are actively working on lifting communities out of poverty. While the organization recognizes that Spain is actively working to address national poverty at large, it believes there is more to do in supporting individual families. Spain has the third highest childhood poverty rate in all of Europe and SOS Children’s Villages primarily targets these vulnerable and at-risk children through their many day centers and homeless villages. In hopes of creating more safe and secure Spanish households, it also focuses on psychological counseling for families and works to aid unemployed citizens in finding work. With ongoing humanitarian work in eight locations within mainland Spain and the Canary Islands, SOS Children’s Villages is an example of an organization that is actively working towards poverty eradication in Spain.


On both the public (federal) and private levels, Spain is developing new innovations and strategies to address its crippling poverty rates. The government’s plans to improve social programs and safety nets while ensuring income guarantees will potentially affect millions of people in struggling Spanish communities. Supplemented with the aid of nonprofit organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages, the goals of these programs hold promises of a better, more secure future for millions of people.

Karli Stone
Photo: Flickr