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Water & Sanitation

Tampons and Pads Will Soon Be Free for All New York School Girls

Two years after New York City introduced a law to ensure that public school students have access to free tampons and pads, the rest of the state is finally catching up.

This week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to Twitter to announce that all public schools in the state will dispense free tampons and pads in a move designed to fight menstruation taboos and ensure that schools remain safe and comfortable settings for girls and other students of diverse gender identities during their periods.

“Schools in New York State will now be required to provide free menstrual products in restrooms for girls in grades 6 through 12,” Cuomo tweeted. “Menstrual products are as necessary as toilet paper and soap, but can be one expense too many for struggling families.”

“No student should miss a day of school or feel ashamed because they don’t have access to menstrual products,” he wrote in a follow-up tweet Thursday.

Take Action: #ItsBloodyTime to End the Taboo Around Menstruation

Cuomo’s announcement comes after state lawmakers agreed to include the provision in the new state budget. The original bill was introduced by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) and embraced by the governor during budget negotiations.

Around the world, millions of girls miss school while menstruating or drop out altogether because they cannot afford pads or tampons. According to UNESCO, one in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their periods. And even in the world’s wealthiest countries, like the US and UK, some girls and women cannot afford the products they need to safely and comfortably manage their periods.  

Global Citizen campaigns on combatting taboos and ensuring all girls, women, and others who menstruate but do not identify as female have access to pads, tampons, and menstrual health products. You can take action here.  

Read More: 5 US Laws That Reinforce Period Taboos

Women’s rights advocates, including many social media users, have hailed the decision by the state as an important step toward making sure low-income girls get the resources they need to stay in school.

"This is a big problem for girls,” wrote Facebook user Caroline McCauley commented on a post by the New York-based newspaper LoHud. “Some don’t come to school when they have their period because they don’t have the supplies they need."

"Have you ever had to make the walk from the bathroom back to your classroom to get a pass to go to the nurse because your period came unexpectedly?" wrote Lisa Marie on the loHud Facebook page.

Read More: Periods just got easier for girls and women in NYC

In a separate tweet Thursday, Cuomo made another announcement aimed at ensuring gender equity across the state. All new publicly accessible bathrooms — regardless of their gender designation — must come equipped with baby-changing stations.

“All parents deserve a clean, safe space to take care of their baby’s needs,” Cuomo tweeted. “We’re ensuring equal access to these amenities so all New Yorkers can give their children the care they need at this critical stage of their lives.”

Read More: New York City Is Making Diaper Stations Mandatory in Bathrooms — Including the Men's Room

Cuomo’s announcements signal a statewide embrace of two similar laws that recently took hold in New York City.

In 2016, the New York City Council voted 49-0 to provide free pads and tampons to women in public schools as well as in jails and homeless shelters.

And in January, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill into law mandating that all new public restrooms include a baby-changing station.

“Breaking news, everyone: It’s the 21st century and men change diapers now,” Mayor de Blasio said at the bill signing.

The diaper-change initiative received praise from parents citywide, including blogger Wendy Wisner.

“As a NYC mom of two, I can’t tell you how happy this makes me,” Wisner wrote. “When my kids were young, my husband was just as responsible for changing diapers as I was, and he would tell me often that there simply weren’t changing tables at all in the men’s rooms in the city.”