For many young girls, getting their periods can be an embarrassing experience — especially at school. Sure, there are the normal body insecurities about "becoming a woman." But there's also common the fear of bleeding through their pants in front of peers, or forgetting feminine hygiene products at home. And for far too many female students, their monthly cycle brings about a different kind of anxiety for one heartbreaking reason: They simply do not have access to the sanitary pads and/or tampons needed. Here's how to donate feminine hygiene products to schools because so many families can't afford them.
As Scary Mommy reported, a school nurse recently shared this harsh reality on Reddit. And it's attracting a lot of attention. "Every day I have girls come in needing products," the original posted revealed. "It’s true that some are just unprepared but SO many of them have told me they feel guilty asking their parents for $5 for tampons." This compassionate nurse pointed out that schools have programs for free lunches, along with programs that send food home during the weekends for low-income students. So why isn't there something in place to help out girls who need help obtaining feminine hygiene products? That's an excellent question, actually.
This school nurse went on to share the heartbreaking conversation she had with one student in particular:
Her- “Hey, um, that time of the month again. Do you have anything?”
Me- “I do, but I’m almost out. You forgot again?.”
Her- “no, but I don’t have any at home.”
Me- “ok. But you really need to get some. If you’ll bring me $5 I’ll pick them up for you.” (I know this girl pretty well by now. She lives with her dad and has a difficult relationship with him.)
Her- “My dad used quarters to pay for gas this morning. I’m not asking him for $5.”
Me- “Ok sweetheart. I’ll get you a couple boxes for Home. But what do you usually do at home when you start your period?”
Her- “I use toilet paper.”
The Reddit nurse went on to share that she often uses her own money to buy tampons for students — and so does literally other every school nurse she knows. While she noted the majority of students at her school can afford feminine hygiene products, she estimated that 20 out of the 400 menstruating girls do have a difficult time getting access to pads or tampons. "That's still 20 too many," she declared, adding:
These girls aren’t too embarrassed or lazy or forgetful. They’re poor and they can’t help it.
The school nurse concluded the Reddit thread with a call-out for action. "So when you’re sending school supplies drop off a box of tampons and see one grateful nurse ... A huge thank you to everyone who goes out and donates!!!"
I don't know about you, but I would consider feminine hygiene products — like toilet paper, for Pete's sake — a freaking necessity that schools should be required to provide for their students. In fact, schools in a couple of states have already done so. The Washington Post reported that some schools in California are required to provide feminine hygiene products in at least half of the bathrooms on campus for free. This law applies to schools that have any combination of grades 6-12 and at least 40 percent of the students coming from low-income households. Similarly, legislators in Illinois recently passed a law in all schools that requires feminine hygiene products to be provided for free in bathrooms of schools with students in sixth grade through twelfth grade. Here's a look at the common-sense logic behind this move, according to the law itself:
Feminine hygiene products are a health care necessity and not an item that can be foregone or substituted easily.(2) Access to feminine hygiene products is a serious and ongoing need in this State.(3) When students do not have access to affordable feminine hygiene products, they may miss multiple days of school every month.(4) When students have access to quality feminine hygiene products, they are able to continue with their daily lives with minimal interruption.
Every year, I buy boxes of tissues and disinfecting wipes for my kids' classrooms, along with their typical school supplies. Granted, my kids and their classmates are far too young to worry about periods, but I never even considered the need for feminine hygiene products at schools. I've been blinded by my own privilege of always having access to these necessities when I needed them. (And I'm guessing I'm not alone.) So the next time you pick up school supplies for your children, consider tossing in a few packages of pads or tampons and dropping them by the school nurse's office. I have a feeling the gesture would be greatly appreciated.