New York will be the first city in the country to provide free sanitary products to 11,600 students as a pilot program in 25 public middle and high schools in Queens and the Bronx gets underway.
Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland was inspired to push for free tampons and sanitary napkins after realizing that many girls skip school or go home because they had stained their clothes or feared staining them.
The program started in September at the High School for Arts and Business in Corona, Queens and “went really well,” said Ferreras-Copeland spokeswoman Lillian Zepeda. The products were distributed via a knob turn from dispensers “and the girls weren’t wasteful at all,” she said.
“Feminine hygiene products are as essential as toilet paper,” Ferreras-Copeland said in a statement. “No young woman should face losing class time because she is too embarrassed to ask for, can’t afford or simply can’t access feminine hygiene products,” she added. Many girls from poor families have trouble affording feminine hygiene products.
The schools to get the dispensers include 12 intermediate and high schools in District 9 and 13 in District 24. The DOE will also provide menstrual education and appointed “trusted teachers” students can talk to if they have questions.
The cost of the program is $160,000.
Ferreras-Copeland also wants to introduce legislation requiring schools citywide to provide free sanitary products “to codify this – right now it’s just an agreement,” said Zepeda.
“This pilot marks a major step in providing additional resources to students in need,” Dept. of Education Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose said.
“Providing feminine products in schools will curb preventable absences and help young women on their path to achievement,” added Sharon Levy, YMCA for Greater New York vice-president.
According to freethetampons.org, an organization devoted to making sure that there are free sanitary products in every restroom, almost 100 million U.S. women have started their periods in public without the supplies they need.