Health services on campus and French student hostels will install dispensers offering free tampons, menstrual pads and other items in coming weeks, higher education minister Frederique Vidal announced on Tuesday.
And, after the northern hemisphere’s summer, environmentally friendly products will be more widely dispensed to overcome what campaigners call period poverty.
One-in-three female students would benefit, she said, with 13% among 6,500 respondents in a recent survey saying they had had to choose between buying period protectives and other everyday items such as food in the past.
France’s plan follows New Zealand and trailbreaker Scotland, whose parliament last year passed law making sanitary napkins free in all public buildings.
Campaigners say girls often miss school because of inaccessibility and unaffordability of sanitary items or medication for cramps — factors than worsen gender inequality and girls’ future educational and employment chances.
Already dispensers had been installed in some 30 high schools across France, reported the French news agency AFP Tuesday. Hundreds of institutions were likely to follow suit.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday renewed a promise made in December that women’s dignity must be protected from what he termed an “invisible injustice” that could no longer be tolerated.
Earlier in February, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the distribution of free products in the South Pacific nation, starting in June, estimated to cost NZ$25 million (US$18 million) over three years.
It would help increase school attendances and benefit teenagers’ wellbeing, predicted Ardern.
“Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population,” she said.