In an event that has been long overdue, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation that will provide freely accessible menstrual рrоduсtѕ іn the state’s publіс schools, homeless shelters аnd prisons.
We can all thank NYC’s Finance council member, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who chose to make it her life’s work to shed light on the situation. 79% of students attending public schools grow up in low-income households, and may not have access to the funds needed to purchase basic hygiene products.
"Some young girls have said, ‘I know my mother is struggling to pay the bills, I don’t feel comfortable asking her for pads also,’" Ferreras-Copeland said. "So some of them would just rather stay home or find themselves using one pad for the whole day."
Over her lifetime, the average woman can expect to pay up to $18,000 on tampons, pads and pain medication. And heaven forbid if she develops endometriosis or any another reproductive illness that requires medical intervention.
Before proposing the bill, Ferreras-Copeland tested its feasibility by carrying out a pilot project where girls in 25 public schools in the Bronx and Queens were given free access to tampons and pads. While public schools do offer free menstrual products in emergency situations, the ease of accessibility varies among schools.
Some students have to communicate their need to 3 different staff members; their teacher, nurse’s secretary, then the nurse herself, before being granted access. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but in the early days of puberty when girls are now learning to accept the changes their bodies are going through, having to ask (or beg) for menstrual products can be embarrassing.
Ferreras-Copeland found that another school takes things further by requiring girls to sign in and provide a detailed explanation as to why they don’t have their own product. Finding such practices unacceptable, Ferreras-Copeland stated, “If we were able to remove the taboo from condoms, and New York City gives out condoms for free, then we should be able to do this. Just like the schools order toilet paper, they should be ordering these supplies.”
After leading the successful trial, Ferreras-Copeland proposed the bill package that would not only benefit students, but homeless women and prison inmates as well. After the unanimous vote of 49-0 by council members on Tuesday July 12, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the legislation the following day.
This marks New York’s second menstrual rights victory, as Governor Cuomo is scheduled to sign a bill later this year that will remove all taxes from menstrual products. New York will become the 6th state to remove the ‘tampon tax’, and the only state currently offering free menstrual products in its public schools, shelters and prisons.
New York City’s Message:
Make tampons and pads available to who need them most, where they need them most.
Teenage girls should not have to make their way to the nurse’s office after going to the bathroom and realizing their period has started.
Homeless women should not have to rely on dirty fabrics to create makeshift pads, as if their risk of infections weren’t already high enough.
Female inmates should not be given 5 or less pads a month to contain their monthly flow, be subjected to humiliation by displaying their used sanitary products to prove they are in need of more, then be at the mercy of the guards to fulfill that request in a timely manner.
The provision of free pads and tampons and removal of the “tampon tax” will hopefully bring society one step closer to ending the despicable practice of period shaming.