That needs to be removed from the Awkward Topic list forever, Period. And it is periods we are talking about. The generation of young girls now preparing to become tomorrow’s leaders need one thing more than anything…CONFIDENCE!
As faint a memory as High School has become for me, I remember missing school. I missed school some days because I had terrible allergies and my spring-time medication hadn’t kicked in. I missed a few days of schools because of family trips, a car accident that put me out of commission for a few days and once, because I had lost my Sophomore English final and stayed home to rewrite it. I never, not once, missed a day of school because I had my period and no tampons or pads. For many of our girls who will soon be the women who we look to as the future leaders our communities and our country, missing school for this reason is a very real reality.
We have to be honest about what society is telling girls they need to be confident. Let’s see..an insanely unreasonable body shape, perfect hair and makeup, expensive clothing and shoes..? In the long run, none of these things create truly confident girls. Women who know their intelligence, importance, and who are given the tools they need to chase after their dreams are much more likely to be truly confident and conquer what it is they set out to do. It is absolutely ridiculous that something biologically understood and expected can take away equal opportunity to education and confidence. These things distract us from true confidence. However there is that one thing that is going to happen every month to us females that while it can’t be stopped, it doesn’t have to be confidence busting.
Here’s the problem with periods still being an “awkward topic”. Because we aren’t talking about it openly, a problem exists that most of us aren’t even aware of. Girls are missing a week of school each month right here in the United States, right here in my own community because they don’t have access to feminine hygiene products. These girls cannot help that they live in poverty and they certainly can’t change their bodies to stop having periods. In-fact, if we were able to move beyond the ridiculous notion of this being an “awkward topic” we would embrace and celebrate our female nature.
I learned of this reality during a meeting with LINC, a local community organization that works to improve the lives of our communities and our children through local school districts, businesses and community leaders. I wanted to find out what I could do to help. I thought we would be talking about community gardens and programs to bring neighbors closer together. Well, we did but the moment the issue of missing school because of periods was mentioned, I realized I had no concept of poverty.
I had experienced times early on in my “on my own” days where I had to pay a bill late because there wasn’t enough money for personal products. I never however missed a day of school or work because there simply was no money available for them. For families that receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), personal hygiene products aren’t covered. Not soap, shampoo, pads or tampons. I reached out to Merideth Parrish, the Director of Neighborhood and Family Services for the Independence, Missouri School District. Right here, in my own community, there is a reality that too many of us have decidedly turned a blind eye to. Wherever you live, that reality most likely exists in your backyard as well.
“–Approximately 11,400 students (80.3%) qualified for free and reduced lunch in 2015-16
– Over 30% of households in ISD (Independence School District) make less than $25,000 per year
– In 2015-16, 938 homeless students qualified for homeless services of which approximately 150 were unaccompanied youth
– Students and families living in shelters, hotels, in crowded spaces with other families, etc.
– Utility crises, food insecurities, lack of adequate clothing and hygiene supplies, lack of transportation and more
– Struggles with dental, mental and physical health issues; significant numbers are uninsured or underinsured
– For many Independence families, a lack of basic needs acts as a formidable and oftentimes compounding barrier to the consistent access to education and academic growth.
– For our teens and young female adolescents in particular, transitioning into puberty is a sensitive time. In addition to normal hormonal, emotional and behavioral changes taking place, a lack of resources or an inability to secure much-needed feminine products adds extra layers of stress, personal shame or guilt, and in many cases personal trauma.” ~ Merideth Parrish
Where there are programs in some school districts, such as New York City that provide products to students, they are few and far between. Within weeks of discussing this situation with a few friends I had a trunk-load of tampons. These donated products can be delivered directly to the school districts- and they were. Sadly, one trunk-load doesn’t go very far in a school district of thousands of students. Here are two things you can do to help:
- Start a drive for these types of products. Make sure to talk to your local school district or community organization to find out if there are any specifics you need to know before taking donations.
- Help our girls AND boys remove any sense of awkwardness from this topic! For some girls they are too embarrassed to ask for a pad or tampon even when one is available.
Let’s take this current re-invigoration of female strength and unity to get active and get our girls bursting with confidence to carry our torch into the future.
Audrey L Elder Living Life Outside the Box