On October 19, 2019, activists gathered to celebrate the first National Periods Day. The event, held in all 50 states and four countries, brought people together around a common goal: to end menstrual poverty.
National Period Day was created by the nonprofit PERIOD to raise awareness of the continuing prevalence of menstrual poverty in the United States and beyond. Menstrual poverty refers to insufficient access to menstrual products, a phenomenon affecting 500 million people around the world. Without adequate menstrual health, people experiencing menstrual poverty frequently have to forgo work, school and other aspects of daily life.
PERIOD, along with many other activist groups, works to end menstrual poverty in our lifetime. Originally founded by high school students, PERIOD connects young activists around the world to end period stigma through the distribution of menstrual products and the promotion of menstrual health education.
The idea of ââcreating a National Rules Day was originally inspired by the existence of harmful legislation across the United States in 2019, 34 states taxed menstrual products as non-essential. In many states, items deemed essential are exempt from tax. These items include most hygiene products, including toilet paper and even candy in some states, but menstrual products are specifically excluded. According to state tax codes across the country, these products are “luxuries.”
On the first National Period Day, activists organized 60 rallies to demand change and recognize menstrual health as a human right. While there has been promising legislation since then, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Two years later, such efforts are still needed. Despite the common thought, menstrual poverty is not limited to the past. It remains omnipresent in the world and in our own communities. As college students, this issue must concern us and compel us to act.
Today, 1 in 10 students experience a period of poverty.
Without access to menstrual products or adequate health, menstrual poverty has a real effect on students’ ability to do well in school and maintain their health. According to a investigation commissioned by PERIOD, 4 in 5 students reported skipping class due to lack of period products, physical symptoms, and stigma surrounding periods.
In addition to this alarming statistic, menstrual poverty affects the mental health of students. These students, who must juggle their studies with their own health, have higher rates of depression than their peers.
Menstrual poverty worsened with the Covid-19 pandemic. In light of nationwide supply shortages and closures of facilities that disperse free menstrual products, universal access to menstrual health is even further removed from achievement.
States across the country recognize the need to end menstrual poverty for college students. October 10, California passed a law require all public schools and colleges to provide free menstrual products. As Alabamians, we must follow their example.
As an institution that values ââprogress and awareness, we as a university need to focus on this issue. Since we place such a high value on education, this education must be used to eradicate menstrual poverty in our time.
The University is already starting to make great strides towards this outcome. In September, Student Government Association adopted a resolution ask for free hygiene products on campus.
The resolution, sponsored by more than 15 senators, calls for the formation of a dedicated working group to explore how this initiative can be effectively implemented. While the resolution will initially only apply to the UA Student Center women’s washroom, it is encouraging that the SGA is exploring how the resolution can be extended.
This SGA approach is essential to raise awareness of menstrual insecurity on campus. Menstrual poverty is only exacerbated by the stigma surrounding menstrual health. With this resolution, our university can begin to crush this stigma.
Abrielle Brown, a junior at the University’s New College, is an activist who conducts research on the effects of menstrual poverty. Brown is encouraged by the introduction of this resolution.
âI think menstrual poverty is a problem that is taking a long time to be resolved,â Brown said. âIt has an impact on people all over the world, in developing countries as well as in developed countries. Menstrual poverty is estimated to affect 500 million people worldwide. And that has an impact on the people on our campus. It breaks my heart that my classmates are going through this. I think Alabama’s focus on providing menstrual hygiene products in bathrooms is definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully will be an inspiration for other organizations and universities to consider this as well. fundamental human right.
Olivia Bruno, a junior major in biology, sees the resolution as a logical extension of university resources.
âLiving on campus for two years, I often see university residences giving out condoms and other products for free. It seems necessary that if the University values ââthis aspect of health, it also values ââmenstrual health. The university is sometimes the only place where people have access to these products. What if someone does not have the time or resources to obtain menstrual products? Having menstrual products on campus will certainly increase their accessibility.
While the SGA resolution is an encouraging step in the fight to end menstrual poverty, students need to make sure our campus activism doesn’t end there. There is still work to be done to make the resolution a reality. The SGA forwarded the resolution to President Stuart Bell, Vice President for Student Life Myron Pope, Vice President and Vice President James Dalton, and Vice President for Student Health and Welfare Ruperto Perez . Students can show their support by contacting the administrators and discussing its feasibility.
Students can also support the fight against menstrual poverty by raising awareness both in classrooms and on social media platforms. Menstrual poverty thrives in a culture that stigmatizes menstrual health. As students, we need to translate our education into action. We must be prepared to feel any discomfort to support a global movement for radical change. Every time we speak up and emphasize the value of universal menstrual health, we move one step closer to its reality.
Editor’s Note: The CW is aware of PERIOD’s story against black in the menstrual space. While their contributions to menstrual equity are substantial, the damage they have caused cannot be ignored. The CW does not endorse PERIOD and encourages readers to check out black-led organizations like Code Red for other resources.
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