Case study - Germany

The following interview is with Elena Weidemann from einhorn.

About the case

Germany agreed to reduce the VAT on menstrual products from the standard rate of 19% to the reduced rate of 7% from January 2020. The campaign started in March 2018 with an online petition on by activists Nanna-Josephine Roloff and Yasemin Kotra.

In 2019, period brand einhorn and the magazine NEON launched an additional petition to the Petitions Committee of the German parliament. This petition reached the necessary 50,000 signatures, so the Petitions Committee invited einhorn and NEON to discuss the issue of reducing VAT on period products to 7%.

When did you start your campaign?

We started planning in autumn 2018 and my colleague Cordelia met with NEON in November 2018. In February we prepared the petition for the Bundestag, which was launched on 30th April, 2019.

How did you arrive at the idea to do this?

The motivation was obvious: the 19% tax on menstrual products was unfair, especially because other products, which are not basic necessities, are taxed at the reduced rate of 7%, including cut flowers, truffles or salmon roe. People who menstruate do not have a choice. If there is a tax rate for products of daily consumption, why shouldn’t products that menstruators need every month not be taxed as such? We wanted to remove this unfair, gender-based discrimination in taxation.

In addition, the petition was a way to continue the de-stigmatisation of periods in society. Furthermore, we wanted the Bundestag (the German Parliament) to deal with the issue, and especially be aware of patriarchal tax law, and therefore we launched this petition.

What was your campaign strategy?

In the campaign we wanted to reach a broad section of society and familiarise them with the issue to create indirect pressure on relevant politicians. On the other hand, we wanted to win over politicians and get them to voice their support for the tax reduction.

Therefore, we concentrated on members of the Petition Committee, held multiple phone calls and met with some of them in person. In terms of public awareness, we contacted different media with the help of NEON, created a website with key information, made a hip-hop music video, designed an online game, spread the message during events, Jule and Sarah from NEON used the Women’s Day march to hold a speech from a demo wagon, and Einhorn held talks with key retailers. Their promise to pass on the tax reduction to consumers, such as by DM (one of Germany’s largest drugstore chains), was essential to reduce product prices.

Because we convinced prominent people such as Joko Winterscheidt, Charlotte Roche and Lena Meyer-Landrut to share the petition, it created a huge media echo. This resulted in awareness of the issue across society once the threshold of 50,000 signatures on the petition was achieved. We started the cooperation with NEON and later on also supported the Tampon Tax Alliance with media reach, contacts and a donation.

Would you do anything differently today?

Communication with Nanna and Yasemin (who launched the initial petition) was not always ideal. I personally regret that and I am sad that they were not featured in our video. But overall I am satisfied with the campaign because the goals were achieved with joint forces.

What is your key advice for other campaigners?

  1. Prepare well, and start your outreach communication even before the start of the petition

  2. Find authentic testimonials

  3. Find political stakeholders that can support you

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Period taxes were removed in Rwanda in late 2019. Learn more about the campaign to #FreeThePeriod in our interview with key advocate Isabelle Akaliza.