Schools are now required to stock their bathrooms with free menstrual products for use, following a law signed by Governor Newsom.
This law comes in response to a growing awareness about “period poverty,” which results in many girls missing school because they are unable to afford menstrual products. In addition, these products that are necessary for women’s hygiene, are also taxed as “luxury products,” making it even more difficult for low income families to afford pads and tampons for their girls.
Many students at SJHHS may not be able to afford these products. In fact, over 270 students here qualify for the McKinney Vento Act, a bill that offers assistance to homeless students on campus. Furthermore, it is logical to assume that students on campus may be struggling financially.
While it is not clear how many of these students are female, it is clear that many students are in need of more accessible feminine products. Newsom’s bill hopes to target these types of students, in addition to benefit the overall female population.
The new bill will provide free menstrual products in bathrooms grades 6-12, community colleges, and the California State University and University of California systems.
However, efforts are also being made by students at SJHHS in order to combat period poverty abroad.
Senior Emily Peo’s club works to increase knowledge and accessibility to feminine products in developing countries by fundraising for the organization “Days for Girls”. The club has already raised $400 through a babysitting fundraiser.
Over the summer, Peo went on a humanitarian trip to learn about period poverty in developing countries like Nairobi, Kenya, and Masaymora. What she saw inspired her to do something about it.
“When [the girls in developing countries] got their periods they were very scared and they had no one to talk to about it. Most of us talked to our moms about it or weren’t as scared when it first happened when we first got it because we knew what was happening. Just hearing their experiences inspired me to do something about it,” said Peo.
While students in the United States may have a general understanding of periods, Peo states that many girls abroad do not.
“Girls in developing countries don’t have the same access to health education that we do when we take sex-ed in school, and they also don’t have access to pads and tampons like we do, or if they do the waste systems are often not sustainable for them,” said Peo.
She cites one instance she saw in Masaymora, in which girls who did not have access to pads or tampons would sit on a cardboard box all week, instead of attending school. Peo mentions that during this week, these girls are more vulnerable to sexual assault or rape due to their helpless stance. In addition, in many African countries the disposal of feminine products was very unsustainable. Peo hopes the trip helped the girls increase their knowledge of periods and such.
“We taught them about their bodies and how to love themselves and that periods are a great thing that we don’t have to be ashamed of,” said Peo.
More locally, writer of the bill Assemblymember Cristina Garcia cites that women collectively spend $20 million a year to afford menstrual products. The bill aims to lower the biological burden on women. It will take into effect next school year, 2022-23.