Menstrual Equity for All Act, and how it relates to Georgia

It’s estimated that up to 86% of women use tampons, up to 72% use pads, and 75% use panty liners. Most premenopausal women use menstrual hygiene products on a monthly basis and it is estimated that a woman will use up to 16,000 tampons in her lifetime. Regardless of income, women spend a significant amount of money on purchasing menstruation hygiene products each year.

Beyond being cost-prohibitive, different populations of women and girls face unique challenges in accessing menstrual hygiene products. 

That’s the language Representative Grace Meng (D-NY-6) uses to invite her colleagues and advocates to join her in the fight for menstrual equity. At the end of March, she introduced House Resolution 1882. Georgia’s own Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA-4) is one of the 43 cosponsors to date. With the stated goal “to increase the availability and affordability of menstrual hygiene products for individuals with limited access, and for other purposes,” the bill is ambitious.

Its text addresses a few of the pillars that make up Georgia STOMP’s primary work:

  1. Giving states the option to use federal grant funds to provide students with free menstrual hygiene products in schools;
  2. Ensuring that inmates and detainees incarcerated in federal (including immigration detention centers), state, and local facilitates have access to free menstrual hygiene products;
  3. Allowing homeless assistance providers to use grant funds that cover shelter necessities (such as blankets and toothbrushes) to also use those funds to purchase menstrual hygiene products;
  4. Allowing individuals to use their own pre-tax dollars from their health flexible spending accounts to purchase menstrual hygiene products;
  5. Requiring that Medicaid covers the cost of menstrual hygiene products for recipients;
  6. Directing large employers (with 100 or more employees) to provide free menstrual hygiene products for their employees in the workplace; and
  7. Requiring all public federal buildings, including buildings on the Capitol campus, provide free menstrual hygiene products in the restrooms.

Helen Beaudreau, Legislative Director for Meng’s office, states that the goal of the legislation is to address the multifaceted issue of menstrual equity under a single banner. “(Rep. Meng) wants to make sure that affordability and accessibility is achieved across all communities in need.”

If you’ve been following along with our work, you’ll know that our coalition has been fortunate to have successes in working with statewide departments to achieve similar goals.

  1. We championed access to period products for students, and will be at the table with the Department of Education as they develop the grant process to distribute the $1 million added to the budget this year for low income schools to provide free menstrual products to their students.
  2. We’ve established a relationship with the Department of Corrections, and are grateful to have Commissioner Tim Ward supporting unlimited free menstrual product access in state-run prisons, but still have work to do in regards to menstrual product access in local, county and juvenile detention centers.
  3. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) has been a wonderful advocate, improving access to menstrual products for those experiencing situational poverty following an emergency or disaster. Director Homer Bryson swiftly made administrative changes to include menstrual products in the list of basic needs supplies that shelters receiving GEMA funds can purchase with that money. They continue to work to ensure that supply chain logistics are in place so that those who experience homelessness, like our fellow Georgians have after Hurricane Michael, will receive the assistance they need in the short AND long term. Director Bryson recently met with coalition partner, Helping Mamas, to discuss supply chain issues.

We are excited to see the other areas that Rep. Meng and HR 1882’s cosponsors will be addressing with this bill. One of the arguments used against House Bill 8 this year was that not all federal institutions account for the fact that menstrual products are an essential purchase in order for women to participate in society and their education.

We are hopeful that HR 1882’s addition to the menstrual equity conversation helps show employers and federal institutions alike that menstrual product access is a great investment. Perhaps it will help our lawmakers understand the same thing in Georgia.

 

Georgia STOMP Coalition Stakeholders Attend National Summit for Period Leadership

October is a busy month – completing work before the holidays, getting out the vote (vote! vote! vote!), ongoing advocacy initiatives, the list goes on! One thing is for certain: our coalition works hard to take every opportunity to gather, learn, and re-energize.

On October 24, we were able to do so at the first-ever National Summit for Period Leadership, hosted by the Alliance for Period Supplies. Our coalition was lucky to have organizers and advocates from all over the US attend this event – hosted in our very own capital city #ATL! Alongside the other 100+ attendees, we were able to learn talking points and best practices from organizations who have been busy advocating for and meeting the basic hygienic needs of those in their communities.

National Summit Stakeholders and APS Members

Board members of the Alliance for Period Supplies, allied organizations, and some of our coalition members after the Summit.

We were able to learn about how organizations approach distributing products in institutions, like schools or homeless shelters, and how researchers at UNC are addressing the dearth of studies present in the literature about anything related to menstruation or access to period supplies.  We learned that there’s really a difference between feminine hygiene products and menstrual hygiene products when used academically (products used for douching vs. products used to manage periods, respectively). We also learned about poverty as a whole, including temporary or situational poverty, something many of our fellow Georgians are unfortunately experiencing in the wake of the recent Hurricanes. Particularly of interest to our group was how poverty makes managing one’s period even more difficult – in ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect!

After the summit, we sat down as a group with some leaders in the space working to #EndPeriodPoverty. One of the most beautiful parts of advocacy work, we are finding, is the amount of help organizations are willing to give one another to in order to change the status quo. We surely wouldn’t be where we are as a coalition without it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We look forward to updating you after our Georgia STOMP stakeholders meet in November to plan for our upcoming year. Until then, Happy Fall Y’all!

DC’s Repeal of the #TamponTax Effective Today

DC’s repeal of the feminine hygiene sales tax is effective today, October 1st, after a bill was passed in 2016 by the Council. The changes only now took effect as this is the first budget cycle that they were included in (for 2019). Read more via this story from WAMU.

There’s a Summit for Period Leadership, and YOU should be there!

The Alliance for Period Supplies is hosting the inaugural National Summit for Period Leadership from 1 – 5 p.m. Wednesday, October 24, 2018 in Atlanta.

What’s going to happen at this summit? Here’s what the Alliance for Period Supplies has to say:

The goal of the afternoon summit is to create a foundation for collaboration and support among individuals and organizations working to address period poverty and menstrual equity in the United States.

Interested organizations are invited to participate in this collaborative event.

Attendees will learn about:

  • Menstrual Equity and Antipoverty Advocacy 
  • Best Practices for Period Supply Programs 
  • Fundraising and Development Opportunities
  • Research and Community Outreach

Leaders with all levels of experience are welcome.

  • Allied Programs, food banks and pantries, and diaper banks, pantries and programs
  • Professionals and service organizations
  • High school and college student leaders/organizers
  • Impassioned people interested in women’s health, poverty, and basic needs

Advocacy can be intimidating…period.

Learning about how a bill is passed, informing yourself about menstrual equity, calling your representatives, having uncomfortable conversations with folks about period products – all of these things make up the pieces of the advocacy puzzle when it comes to the menstrual hygiene tax. Doesn’t exactly sound like a blast, we know.

What we ALSO know is how amazing it is to be part of a group of people making changes for the better, and how critical it is for us to raise our voices when something simply isn’t right. The inequitable sales tax on menstrual hygiene products is, in our opinion, one of those things.

Advocating for yourself and others is empowering, and there’s a top-of-the-mountain high when you make a great connection or get to “yes” with someone you didn’t think would support your initiative.

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” — Malala Yousafzai.

But once you decide to speak up, how can you get to that “yes”? Easy! Inform yourself, and ask questions. We all stand on the shoulders of advocacy giants who came before us. Here are a few easy steps to get started:

  1. You’re already there! Welcome to the Georgia STOMP site.
  2. Sign up for our email list – we’ll keep you posted when it’s time to make a 2 minute phone call to your representative, or coyly slide in menstrual hygiene products into conversation at the water cooler.
  3. We LOVE following hashtags – like #EndPeriodPoverty, #MenstrualEquity, #TamponTax, and #femininehygienetax – on social media platforms or with Google Alerts. The internet, in this case, is your friend!
  4. We also LOVE following our Coalition members on social media platforms. They’re linked on our home page for easy reference, so you can be up to speed on what’s happening locally in your community.