The State of Period Poverty: May 2022
"It's 2022, Yet More Than Half Of The Population Is Still Paying The Price For A Natural Bodily Function."
Jordan Langs, Program and Development Associate at the Moms Helping Moms Foundation said it best.
The State of Period Poverty
Period poverty is defined as the inability to afford or access the necessary menstrual products needed to manage a period. It affects over 22 million people in the United States. Recent studies show that 2 in 5 people with periods experience period poverty at some point in their life.
The average menstruator spends over $6000 on menstrual products in their lifetime. On top of being expensive and taxed, period products are currently not covered by any government assistance programs, like SNAP.
Because products are so inaccessible, many have to make impossible decisions every day, like choosing between food and period products, or choosing between school supplies and period products. Menstruators are often forced to wear products for longer than recommended, or improvise with unsanitary alternatives, like rags, toilet paper, or even socks.
On top of the mental, physical, and financial burdens of period poverty, it also affects one’s ability to attend work, school, and daily life’s activities. The State of the Period report in 2021 found that 23% of students in the US have struggled to afford menstrual products, 51% have worn products for longer than recommended, and 38% often or sometimes can’t do their best school work due to lack of access to period products. 16% said that during the pandemic they have chosen to buy menstrual products over food or clothing.
The problem of period poverty has a solution— if lawmakers to their part.
Currently, only 13 states have passed legislation to provide free menstrual products in public school restrooms: Delaware, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.
There is currently no federal legislation that addresses period poverty— but it has been introduced. Representative Grace Meng from New York introduced the Menstrual Equity for All Act in 2019. This revolutionary bill would vastly improve access to menstrual products in schools, incarceration facilities, shelters, federal buildings, and businesses.
The positive effects of passing menstrual equity legislation are overwhelming. For example, in 2015, a New York City public school saw a 2.4% increase in attendance after participating in a pilot program that stocked school bathrooms with free menstrual products.
A Portsmouth, England school saw attendance increase by nearly a third in 2018 under a similar program, and in 2020, 15 schools across New Zealand saw similar results, even noticing a significant increase in classroom engagement.
No one should have to miss school, work, or any event because they do not have access to the essential products required to manage something that occurs naturally and uncontrollably in more than half of the population.
While many organizations are doing great work addressing period poverty, they are barely scratching the surface of need. Governments have the ability to remove this barrier by providing free menstrual products in school restrooms, so that all students can attend school.
2022 can be the year the U.S. achieves menstrual equity, but we need supportive legislation and government action to be successful.
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