No matter who is president, providing accessibility to sanitary products to those in poverty has always been a problem.
In most parts of the world, there’s a tampon tax, or “luxury” tax on menstrual products, despite the fact that menstruation is far from a luxury. Luckily, there are legislative efforts in California and Wisconsin to eliminate the tampon tax, but it’s a slow-moving and exhaustive process that could take years.
And in the meantime, the reality is that more and more will go without access to necessary menstrual hygiene products. As Vice says, having a period isn’t a hassle if you’re homeless, it’s a nightmare: “Because if you can’t muddle together enough money for food or shelter, it is unlikely you’ll be able to afford sanitary towels or tampons.”
Even EBT/food stamps don’t cover menstrual products, explains the Huffington Post. That also goes for essential paper products, including toilet paper and tissues, and other hygiene products like deodorant.
Additionally, young girls all over the world miss school because they don’t have adequate sanitary products, urging those of socioeconomic privilege in school districts to take action on behalf of those who can’t.
This is why community leaders have organized tampon drives in schools, activist groups, and overall communities. For instance, two women from Lincoln, Nebraska have spearheaded a local tampon drive all throughout Lent, according to the Lincoln Journal Star, which collected different sized tampons and pads as well as packets of sanitary wipe and bottles of Midol. Additionally, Teen Vogue reported male students of James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut started a tampon drive after learning most women are left without menstrual products when surprised by their periods.
However, tampon drives shouldn’t only push for free menstrual products. Keep reading if you want to take your activism to the next level.
In an op-ed for the Guardian, menstruation activist Chella Quint, who coined the term “period positive” in 2006, argues these drives aren’t enough, they’re only a temporary band-aid to a larger societal issue. Instead, Quint says sex education curriculum should cover menstruation more adequately, so young women aren’t vulnerable to being educated heavily from corporations that sell menstrual products: “We need to keep brands away from national curriculum planning for menstruation education, and include experts.”
She also offers calls to action for policymakers and companies. Policymakers shouldn’t allow school districts to distribute free menstrual products without teaching about reusable menstrual products and prohibit branded resources in classrooms. Companies are encouraged to remove branding from their resources, but prove their content’s credibility by consulting experts in the field.
So, as a community leader, how can you enact this advice in your own tampon drive? How do you go the extra mile? Here are three quick steps.
Encourage reusable menstrual donations.
When creating a list of accepted donations for your drive, include reusable products, such as menstrual cups, sponges, and cloth pads. Although it’s awesome to help the environment, reusable products last longer and go farther than disposable products for those in financial need. For instance, a menstrual cup can last up to ten years.
Advocate against corporate intervention in sex education curriculums.
If your school uses educational resources provided by brands that sell menstrual products (and it probably does), push back. Try to get your hands on these resources. Sometimes, it can be painfully obvious if the resource’s content isn’t backed by scientific information and reproductive experts, which makes a great talking point to bring to the administration’s attention.
Prepare to compromise.
If your drive gains publicity and widespread attention, donations will stack up. You might even get offered a partnership, where a party will provide free menstrual products with your school. However, stick to your guns when it comes to sex education. Be ready to advocate for adequate classroom resources, if brought up by the donors, in return for free products.