The Impact of Period Poverty on Female Students

It’s the middle of the school day and you have to be at Algebra class in 3 minutes. As if Mondays weren’t bad enough, your period started unexpectedly. You rummage through your book bag looking for a tampon or a pad – you could have sworn you had some in there. It’s empty though. On to plan b. The machine in the bathroom takes quarters. You open your wallet – nickels, dimes…no quarters. You see your friend walk by. You scurry over to her and pull her aside.

“Do you have a tampon?” you whisper. You’re in luck – she discreetly passes one to you. Phew!

This scenario is likely all too familiar for many girls and young women. There are several ways in which schools hinder the education of female students, and, unfortunately, the fact that menstrual products are not readily available in schools is one of them.

In the month of July, New Hampshire became only the fourth state in the country – joining California, New York, and Illinois – to require that schools provide menstrual products for free to students in grades six through twelve. The city of Boston made a similar move just one month ago.

The aim of these pieces of legislation is to tackle an issue known as “period poverty”.

The Impact of Period Poverty in Schools

Period poverty is not only a problem in developing countries. It is an issue that is faced here in the United States, as well. However, most people are unaware of it and don’t realize the impact it has on female students’ education. Many are shocked to learn that nearly one in five American girls have either left school early or missed school entirely due to a lack of access to menstrual products.

Female students should not experience a hindered education simply because they forgot to bring menstrual products to school that day or because their families cannot afford these products.

How You Can Help Tackle The Problem

To address this problem, every state should pass legislation that requires schools to provide menstrual products for free. However, the fact that only four states and one city have done so thus far indicates that our state legislators might not have this issue high on their priority list.

And that’s where you can help! How? By following in the footsteps of Caroline Dillon, a high school senior from New Hampshire who helped state Sen. Martha Hennessey write Senate Bill 142 to end period poverty and break down taboos about menstruation. Caroline learned about period poverty while working on a history project on inequality. It inspired her to write a mock bill, which she had the opportunity to present to state Sen. Hennessey.

After fine-tuning it, the two brought the bill to the State Senate’s Education and Workforce Development Committee. That bill is now law. You, too, can contact your state legislatures and ask them to address period poverty in middle and high schools. It could lead to significant change!

In addition to contacting your state leadership, you can help by supporting companies that work to end period poverty in schools, like Always and Kotex. In 2018, Always teamed up with Feeding America on a mission to donate 18 million pads to keep girls in school. Their goal is to ensure that all girls at puberty have the sanitary protection they need to stay confident. Spread the word about the good work this company is doing!

Kotex is the founding sponsor of the Alliance for Period Supplies, which donates period supplies to women in need. There are two ways you can help: either make a cash donation directly to the Alliance or donate period products to an Alliance for Period Supplies partner near you!

Hopefully, through these efforts, we’ll see the day where menstrual products in school bathrooms are as available as the toilet paper. 

Grace Malloy is a 28-year-old living in the Greater Boston area, with interests in writing, public service, and women’s rights. While working as a software support specialist, she received her Masters Degree in Public Administration – a challenging yet fulfilling experience. She aspires to use her strengths and passions to make a positive impact on her community.

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