Free Tampons For NYC Students! Next Up, Everyone?

by Jenn Rose

At the High School for Arts and Business in Queens, New York, the lives of hundreds of female students just got a little easier, and it's all thanks to New York City councilperson Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. The school will now be providing free tampons and pads for its female students, following an initiative spearheaded by Ferreras-Copeland earlier this year. This is a big win not only for girls who might be caught unprepared by an early uterine surprise, but also for girls who can't afford their own supplies. "Some young girls have said, ‘I know my mother is struggling to pay the bills, I don't feel comfortable asking her for pads also,'" Ferreras-Copeland told NY Mag. "So some of them would just rather stay home or find themselves using one pad for the whole day." The supplies were donated by Hospeco, but Ferreras-Copeland is currently drafting legislation to get the city to provide them in the future.

It seems that some schools in the district do keep emergency supplies on hand, but girls often had to jump through embarrassing hoops in order to access them, such as asking three different levels of faculty members and signing affidavits explaining why they didn't have their own. "If we were able to remove the taboo from condoms, and New York City gives out condoms for free, then we should be able to do this," added Ferreras-Copeland. "Just like the schools order toilet paper, they should be ordering these supplies."

The councilperson's ultimate goal is to provide access to free feminine hygiene products in all public schools, as well as in prisons and homeless shelters throughout the country. She also wants the state sales tax on such products to be repealed. Let's all pause for a moment to mentally high-five this awesome, awesome lady.

Why didn't someone think of this sooner? Take a look at Twitter and you'll see that they've gotten a whole lot of support:

Access to proper feminine hygiene products is a huge problem for women all over the world. In fact, millions of women and girls in developing countries miss work or school every day because they have their periods and no access to supplies. And these are women for whom education and salary is absolutely critical.

But this isn't just a third-world issue. According to Free the Tampons, 86 percent of US women aged 18-54 report that they've started their period unexpectedly in public without the supplies they need. But don't assume that they can all rig up a quick toilet paper pad to hold them over until they get home; many women struggling with poverty simply can't afford any feminine hygiene products, and they're not covered by food stamps. Many women's prisons don't provide these products to inmates, either, and homeless women have trouble even finding a safe, private place to change a tampon, if they manage to procure one at all.

You'd never be expected to walk into a public bathroom with your own soap or seat cover, or be confronted with a vending machine that would only provide paper towels in exchange for cash. Why draw the line at tampons? Shouldn't they be subsidized, too?

Image: Eric E Castro/Flickr; Giphy