Did you know that 1 out of 5 teenagers in the US has struggled to afford period products or was not able to purchase them at all, according to a study by PERIOD (a menstrual advocacy organization) and Thinks, Inc. (an education and consumer site)? When Wellesley High School junior Siena Cohen found out, she decided to do something about it right here at home. Cohen has set up a non-profit organization called the Menstrual Equality Fund and is raising money to make menstrual products free at WHS.
The idea behind menstrual equity, a concept that has been around for several years, is that people should have access to products that are affordable and accessible, particularly in public settings. Supporters point out that it’s high time for menstrual products to join soap and toilet paper as hygiene items that are free in public restrooms.
Nationwide, fewer than a dozen states require public schools to stock free products. Last November, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed a bill making that state the most recent to require its public schools and colleges to do so. As for Massachusetts, a bill that would provide free products to students currently is making its way through the State House. Known as the I AM bill, and presented by Massachusetts State Senator Patricia Jehlen, and Representative Christine Barber, the bill has yet to make it to the governor’s desk. In nearby Rhode Island, a bill passed unanimously last June that will allow public school students to have access to menstrual products for free starting this year.
Since she isn’t willing to wait around for the state to act, Cohen has moved forward with her plans. All monies collected through the Menstrual Equality Fund will go toward ensuring dispensers in all four girls’ bathrooms at Wellesley High School will be stocked with free, 100% organic, cotton pads and tampons. In addition to asking for monetary donations, Cohen and other volunteers sell pins during school lunch blocks.
Cohen in an email said, “No student should be punished or forced to miss class because of their period. By making menstrual products free, and therefore more accessible, we can ensure that the needs of all students, no matter the financial state, are taken care of.”
Should the bill pass through the Massachusetts legislature, Menstrual Equality Fund’s work will be done here. Until then, Cohen asks everyone to, “Help WHS go with the flow!”
HOW TO DONATE
Scan the QR code below or click on the link to donate. Menstrual Equality Fund also accept donations via Venmo @siena-cohen (4884). The group’s fundraising goal is $2,300, and they are getting close.
Follow Menstrual Equality Fund on Instagram @menstrualequality.whs for updates.