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Why are students being charged for a necessity?

For decades teens have had to deal with the extra expense of buying menstrual products while in school, but for what reason?

A new California law that was signed by CA Governor Gavin Newsom mandated that free menstrual products were to be provided in restrooms at no cost at the start of the 2022 to 2023 school year in Oct. 2021. 

Glen A. Wilson High School has abided by the law since then and has accommodated the students with tampons and pads. However, the dispensers are frequently reported empty when students need the products the most. They are rarely refilled and leave teens with no choice but to ask others for a helping hand.

For the students that really need it, the availability of period products at all times would alleviate so much more pressure than you would think. But because the dispensers in our school are always empty, students are unable to get rid of this worry and so they have to turn to other means. The stress of having to ask your friend for a product or wondering if you have enough money to purchase one on short notice could be simply nonexistent if the school met our basic needs.

However, why do period products cost money in the first place? Is this just a cash grab? Though there are some who think that people will abuse the products if given for free, this does not affect the fact that period products are a basic necessity.

It is reported that women spend an average of about $18,000 on period products over the course of their lifetime. One pack of pads or tampons alone is $10 to $20. The same amount of money that is being constantly spent on a necessity that should be free of charge could be spent on other important expenses like bills, food or even college tuition. And yet some are forced to choose between these necessities, leading to a phenomenon known as period poverty.

Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products due to financial instability. This can affect a person who is in a low-income household so much to the point where she will have to choose between comfort during menstruation or food. Not having the proper product can eventually lead to someone resorting to unsafe or unsanitary ways of dealing with their period, which may cause medical problems in the future. But if all schools were to fund period products for free, period poverty could be prevented. 

Furthermore, not all period products are eco-friendly. It is a topic that has been controversial in society for some time—there are a lot of chemicals that are being put into these products, and consumers are never 100% sure that they do not pose as safety hazards. Regardless, we should not have to worry about whether or not the period products we insert into our body cause health problems.

Moreover, Andre Schulten, the chief financial officer of Procter & Gamble, a manufacturer of the popular tampon brand Tampax, told the New York Times that making period products is “costly and highly volatile” when it comes to acquiring the necessary raw materials to make them like cotton and plastic. This is just another reason to make these products eco-friendly if they are such a hassle to be made. 

Not only that, access to these necessities free of charge would help out the people who are in fear of embarrassment as well. Having a period is quite frustrating while at school, and going without a period product can be humiliating. However if our school never ran out of period products to provide, people would not have the fear of leaking or being forced to leave school early which would affect their academics. 

For this reason, students here at Wilson have chosen to make a difference by teaming up and taking the initiative to address these inconveniences. 

Girl Up, a club on campus designed for all people to advocate for gender equity and empower girls to make a worldwide impact is already leaving an overwhelmingly positive impact on the student body. 

President senior Katharine Rovira stated that the lack of products accessible to the students could cause more stress especially when we are being given the cheapest alternative.

Rovira says, “Fortunately, now the school has started to provide products inside the bathrooms but unfortunately they do not restock them often as we have been keeping track. The maxi pads without wings that are provided are seen as uncomfortable and some students also just use tampons as well. For this reason, Girl Up will be making menstrual care packages. First, we will start with thin pads as not every person has the same type of flow, then we will continue to include a variety which will be easily accessible in bathrooms and classrooms.”

The students here at Wilson are making a change to help break down the stigma of periods being seen as gross and a thing to hide. We should not live in a shelter of society where we are just seen to deal with our periods on the low. The cost of the products that are a necessity needs to be dropped or even free as problems are starting to rise thanks to inflation. I hope to see a change in the future where society accepts periods as they are and do not attempt to profit from them.

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