Too many girls miss school because of their periods, and now activists are putting pressure on the US Department of Education to change that.
A group of “menstrual equity” advocates put out an advertisement letter in the Washington Post on Monday, calling on the US education department to end period poverty. They also marched near the Education Department headquarters and lit up the building with their message, the Washington Post reports.
Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management. Girls around the world miss school every day because they're unable to manage their periods.
Period, the world’s largest youth-run menstrual hygiene nonprofit founded by Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand, and the United for Access campaign, led by period-proof underwear company Thinx, are behind the push. Together, they have already gathered almost 35,000 signatures on their petition to end period poverty.
“Every student deserves the reassurance that their school restrooms are outfitted with necessities to accommodate their biological needs,” says the letter addressed to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Notable women including Margaret Cho, Cynthia Nixon, and Padma Lakshmi signed the letter alongside two teacher union leaders.
Today, along with @periodmovement, we delivered our petition of 35,000 signatures to @BetsyDeVos, demanding free period products in schools across the US. 📝 Oh, and then we lit up the Department of Education, just in case she didn’t get the message! 🔥 #unitedforaccesspic.twitter.com/juCN3Qd7Vi— THINX (@SheTHINX) January 29, 2019
The activists are asking the US Department of Education to champion menstrual equity for students. This means treating period products as health necessities, supporting policies that protect students who menstruate, and funding free period products in school bathrooms. They also want schools to teach children of all genders under the age of 12 about period health and a national study on how period poverty affects students across the US.
The menstrual supplies brand Always conducted a poll in 2018 that found 1 in 5 girls in the US have missed school because they did not have period products. The tampon tax, which taxes menstrual products as luxury items, currently applies to 35 US states and makes these basic items expensive and unaffordable.
“Oftentimes, people will tell us it’s not a necessity, like this is something that shouldn’t be prioritized over other social issues like hunger,” Period founder Okamoto told Vox.
“The biggest thing is us really needing to convince people that this is a necessity and not a luxury. I know it sounds simple to people who believe in gender equality, but it’s easier said than done,” she said.