(NY) – Throughout March, hundreds of students throughout the state celebrated Womxn’s Herstory Month by participating in a menstrual product drive to collect goods and challenge taboos about period health and homelessness. College students working with NYPIRG collected 24,388 menstrual and hygiene products to be donated to local shelters.
NYPIRG student activists hosted service drives on sixteen college campuses in New York State to spread awareness and provide relief. At City College, 1,217 items were collected and donated to a local charity in need.
Families, a majority of which are headed by women, are a large proportion of New York State’s housing insecure population.[i] For homeless women, the struggle to survive means not only obtaining food and shelter, but access to menstrual products as well. Unfortunately, shelters often are desperately in need of tampons and pads. A 2016 Harris Poll found that only 6% of respondents had ever donated period products, but three times as many had donated other toiletries.
On top of that, students advocated for LGBTQ inclusion in menstrual campaigns. Women are not the only ones who experience periods and public health conversations and services must acknowledge that.
The focus on period health has been gaining momentum in recent years. In 2016, New York State eliminated taxes on all menstrual products. 2016 also saw Mayor Bill de Blasio signing legislation providing free menstrual products in all NYC public schools, shelters, and jails. New York State joined by passing a statewide law to provide period products in all public schools for grades 6-12 in 2018.
The taboo nature of period products contributes to a lack of visibility about the issue and discomfort for people who must self-advocate. That’s why NYPIRG chapters across the state are challenging that stigma.
“We wanted to bring people together to inform the entire community on campus about period health, menstrual equity, and homelessness, not just those who are directly affected by this issue,” said Alyssa Clark and Sinead Murray, Project Coordinators with NYPIRG at CCNY.
NYPIRG works on combating poverty through educational and service-based actions. This year’s menstrual product drive provided students with the opportunity to build community organizing skills and bring aid to people in need.
Contributions are being donated to a wide variety of shelters and pantries across the state including the Brooklyn College Women’s Center, Providence House in Bedford-Stuyvesant, SUNY Cortland Cupboard and YWCA in Cortland, and SUNY New Paltz Food Pantry and New Paltz Family Pantry. In addition to hygiene products, many campuses also collected sexual health items like condoms and pregnancy tests.
“Periods don’t just happen
once a year so we shouldn’t stop fighting for menstrual equality now that the
month is over,” said Emily Skydel, NYPIRG’s Hunger and Homelessness Coordinator
at Queens College.