Free menstrual hygiene products are now available in designated bathrooms of four Providence Public schools
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
PROVIDENCE, R.I.- Mayor Jorge O. Elorza along with the Superintendent of Providence Public Schools Christopher N. Maher, Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune and the City’s Director of Healthy Communities Ellen Cynar announced the pilot launch of the City’s free menstrual hygiene product program in Providence public schools, which launched last week.
Dispensers carrying the menstrual hygiene products are now available to students, free of cost, in designated bathrooms in Hope High School, Classical High School, Delsesto Middle School and Greene Middle School throughout the pilot phase. The program was first announced during Mayor Elorza’s FY19 budget address and will ultimately reach all Providence public middle and high schools.
“No student should have to limit their education or miss school activities because they are menstruating,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “Periods are a part of life. When students are forced to disrupt their regular activity, they miss opportunities, it affects their self-esteem, and it reinforces stigma. Let’s work to ensure that all students in our school system are empowered, fully engaged, and focused on achieving in the classroom by meeting their basic needs.”
Timed dispensers carrying the free period products have been installed in every female bathroom and in the school’s gender-neutral bathroom at Hope High School and DelSesto Middle School. In an effort to experiment with different delivery options, timed dispensers were installed in one designated female bathroom and one gender-neutral bathroom at both Classical High School and Greene Middle School for the program’s pilot trial.
“A year after meeting with local educator Diandra Kalish, Kavelle Christie of Planned Parenthood and the Elorza administration, I am excited to see that our advocacy for menstrual equity has helped inspire the launch of the menstrual hygiene product pilot program,” said Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune. “Our students deserve equal access to quality menstrual products without stigma because having a period is not a taboo- it is a component of our youth’s reproductive health.”
In 2018, the Healthy Communities Office, along with community partner Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, issued a survey to Providence middle school and high school students to gauge the specific needs of students. The survey identified cost and accessibility as the two leading barriers for students to acquire menstrual hygiene products. The survey also determined that many students purchase these products themselves, through a family member, or gain access to them through the school nurse’s office. Of those students who did not acquire them at school, many did not know they were available or did not feel comfortable asking for products from the school nurse. Students reported missing or being late to physical, school and social activities due to menstruation and lack of access to hygiene products. These effects are consistent with national trends.
“Young people should not have to worry about how to buy or access menstrual hygiene products, especially while in school,” said Kafi Rouse, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “We believe that menstrual hygiene products should be readily available to all young people. Tampons and pads are not luxury items. They are a necessary component of feminine hygiene and should be available to all people.”
Though research on the effects of students in the US missing school or activities due to menstruation is not widely covered, an estimated 100 million girls of high school age are missing school with periods and lack of period products as a leading cause according to UNESCO.