IMPACT

Free Tampon Dispenser In School Helps Low-Income Girls

Buying tampons and pads can be a serious burden for some students.

A public high school in New York City will offer free tampons and sanitary pads to students this year.

A dispenser filled with feminine hygiene products has been installed in the bathroom of the High School for Arts and Business in Corona, Queens. The school is participating in a pilot program that’s part of a collaboration between Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and health care company Hospeco, which donated the products, according to the Jackson Heights Post.

“Feminine hygiene products allow women and girls to carry out their daily responsibilities uninterrupted, and they should always be easily accessible,” Ferreras-Copeland told the Queens Courier.

The costs of pads and tampons can be a serious burden to low-income families. Ferreras-Copeland told Pix 11 in June that some girls were afraid to tell their families that they needed money for menstrual products.

“They’re concerned about ‘Can my mother afford this,’” Ferreras-Copeland said. 

Some students would even stay home from school because they didn't have access to menstrual products. Teachers and administrations at the High School for Arts and Business told DNA Info that they sometimes used their own money to pay for students’ pads and tampons, because the students couldn’t afford them. 

NYMag.com notes that nurses' offices in public schools already offer free pads and tampons in the case of emergency, but the policies vary from school to school and can be complicated or stigmatizing. For example, at one school, students have to explain why they don’t have have a pad or tampon, and at another, the process involves telling multiple staff members.

Ferreras-Copeland is also leading the initiative to draft legislation that would expand access to feminine hygiene products for homeless women and girls, as well as those who are incarcerated. 

Homeless women often list tampons and pads at the top of their needs, since shelters have a severely limited amount. And a shortage of sanitary products is a major problem in women’s prisons. Some facilities provide a limited number of low-quality pads for free, but force women to use their own money -- money that many simply don’t have -- to purchase any extras they need. Other facilities require inmates to pay for all feminine hygiene products they need, or go without, and still others just run out of products altogether.

Contact the author of this article at Hilary.Hanson@huffingtonpost.com

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