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The secret to ending period poverty, with PERIOD.

A guest post by our partner, PERIOD.org.

The invisible trauma of period poverty exists around the world, where an estimated 500 million people can’t access menstrual products. In the U.S., nearly 1 in 4 students can’t access or afford period products and over 3/4ths of students report knowing more about the anatomy of frogs than their own bodies. 1 in 10 college students report feeling the negative mental effects of living without access to menstrual supplies. The negative effects of period poverty are far reaching, impairing mental health as much as physical health with evidence of depression and anxiety experienced by people suffering from period poverty. Luckily, we can end this crisis by investing in the youth leaders of the menstrual movement, whose bravery to stand up for their own physical and mental health will end period poverty in their lifetime.

16% of students have chosen to buy period products over food or clothes as a result of the pandemic. But instead of allowing stigma and taboo to keep this inequality hidden from view, the youth leaders in over 400 PERIOD. chapters are talking about it — in their classrooms, with their family, on TikTok. Gen Z is voicing what many of us have been afraid to say. They are sitting in city council meetings telling stories of bleeding through their clothes. They are testifying for menstrual equity laws that make products more affordable, and causing lawmakers to blush in embarrassment as they say words like blood and menstruation in state capitol buildings. They know that without ending period poverty, they will endure worse academic and health outcomes. Their ability to be vulnerable while speaking truth to power can make us uncomfortable. But is it possible that we are uncomfortable because, unlike Gen Z, we never had the courage to speak up about these issues when we were young? Or perhaps we didn’t have the access to the platforms of communication that this age of technology offers to the younger generation?

Regardless of the reason, here is the current reality: Over half of US states still tax menstrual products as luxury items, creating economic burdens for people who menstruate. Menstruators who rely on government assistance can’t purchase menstrual products through SNAP or WIC. People who menstruate continue to be stressed and burdened each month without access to this essential good. This is a shocking cultural oversight, and must be remedied through direct service and systemic policy. Organizations like PERIOD. donate millions of period products to people in need every year. In order to permanently end period poverty, however, we must change laws. Products must be made more affordable to all through the elimination of the tampon tax, and easily accessible for students at public schools.

Our secret weapon is a new generation of leaders, who work within hundreds of small youth-led menstrual equity groups in their local communities around the US and world. Let’s follow their lead and demand menstrual equity for all.

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