Step Up Your Period Activism by Advocating for Menstrual Education

Jun 5, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. ET
Image: Getty Images

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 “[b]ecause 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.”

More: The Menstrual Equity for All Act Would Increase Access to Period Products

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 socio-economic 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, with activist groups and all over communities. For instance, according to the Lincoln Journal Star, two women from Lincoln, Nebraska, have spearheaded a local tampon drive, which collected different-size tampons and pads as well as packets of sanitary wipe and bottles of Midol, all throughout Lent. 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 bandage for 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.”

More: Lunapads Is the OG Alternative Menstrual Company

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 use 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 10 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.

More: 3 Gender-Inclusive Menstrual Product Companies

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 for 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.

By Danielle Corcione

Originally published on HelloFlo.