By: Sophie Avedissian
An Instagram post from PERIOD, a global non-profit working towards eliminating period poverty and period stigma. (Photo Credit: @periodmovement)
At the age of thirteen, Holly experienced period poverty, the lack of access to menstrual care products such as pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. Her alcoholic stepfather made it difficult for Holly to purchase pads or tampons. As a result, she visited her general practitioner and signed herself up for the pill. Not long after, Holly decided to leave home at the age of fifteen.
Holly explains how she struggled with purchasing period products: “I was living off approximately £45 a week. Out of that, I had to pay for a laundrette, electricity bills and food. I was often short for pads and tampons, or I couldn’t afford to wash my bedding after a leak, so I would run my pills back to back if I couldn’t afford to have a period. This was common amongst the ladies I shared a house with, it was grim.”
Unfortunately, in the status quo, Holly is only one of the countless menstruators around the world that do not have direct, easy access to period products. When menstruators do not have proper access to period products, many end up missing work or school. Period poverty serves as a hindrance to achieving gender equality once and for all. How can girls and women have equal opportunities if their periods are holding them back?
However, thanks to the diligent work of representatives who recognize the serious global matter at hand, policies are being implemented that truly prioritize menstrual health. AB-367, introduced by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, is one of these policies that is bringing the world a large step closer to achieving menstrual equity. The bill would make period products free in public schools and public agencies in California. Most importantly, this bill treats access to menstrual care products as a human right, rather than a luxury.
With about thirty states in the United States still having the tampon tax in place, it is refreshing to see states taking initiative to resolve and eradicate period poverty. AB-367 states, “This bill would enact the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021, which would require a public school, as provided, maintaining any combination of classes from grades 6 to 12, inclusive, to stock the school’s restrooms with an adequate supply of free menstrual products, as defined, available and accessible, free of cost, in all women’s restrooms and all-gender restrooms, and in at least one men’s restroom, at all times, and to post a designated notice, on or before the start of the 2022–23 school year, as prescribed.”
Since February 1, when the bill was first introduced, much has happened. On September 13, AB-367 passed out of Senate Appropriations. The bill is very close to passing the finish line. Assemblymember Cristina Garcia has sent AB-367 to the governor for signature.
The bill will have significant, lasting impacts on California. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, “One in eight California women are poor, compared to one in 10 California men. Women account for almost 80 percent of single parents living with children, and 28 percent of them have incomes below the federal poverty threshold ($14,824 for a mother with two children in 2003). Nineteen percent of single women living alone are poor. In married-couple families, only 7 percent of women are poor. Among poor women between the ages of 25 and 59, 36 percent work, 25 percent have a working husband, and 25 percent rely on public assistance as their main income source.”
Wherever there is homelessness, there is period poverty.
In 2020, The California State Board of Education explained that their vision in the following years is that, “All California students of the 21st century will attain the highest level of academic knowledge, applied learning and performance skills to ensure fulfilling personal lives and careers and contribute to civic and economic progress in our diverse and changing democratic society.”
Additionally, The California Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) has written, “Governor Newsom has tasked the Future of Work Commission to develop a new social compact for California workers, based on an expansive vision for economic equity that takes work and jobs as the starting point.”
Advancing menstrual equity will allow California to achieve its goals regarding education and the economy. Period poverty is an issue that affects everyone indirectly.
It is my hope that other states and parts of the world follow California’s lead in changing the negative effects of period poverty. It is my hope that girls no longer have to miss school and women no longer have to miss work. It is my hope that the status quo changes, as it must be improved to reach equality. It is my hope that women like Holly do not have to lose their dignity and integrity by not having proper access to period products.